Digital footprints, digital trails, and digital breadcrumbs – the data trails we leave behind us when we use technology are something many of us have been warned about our whole lives.
I Know A Lot About This
Like my previous post on digital literacy, I’ve learned quite a bit about digital footprints, especially as a Communication major. In one of my classes, I even produced a 10-minute documentary on the effects of digital footprints on future employment opportunities. But in that documentary, I emphasized individual actions and the implications of “cancel culture,” and how to mitigate the impacts of digital footprints on young people’s futures.
But on Pod Academy’s podcast, they explain that digital footprints don’t just encompass people’s individual actions and choices made on the internet. A lot of information is spread unintentionally when using any sort of technology with a chip in it. For example, when I use my phone, it’s constantly communicating with cell towers and the internet too. That means that my phone’s always giving apps information about me and my environment.
And as an avid technology user, this is a little worrisome. I don’t exactly want my phone tracking me and giving all these apps tons of information at all times. But also, I’ve sort of gotten to a point where I don’t care. Like many others expressed on Pod Academy, the creation of our digital trails has been so ubiquitous that people simply don’t worry about it anymore.
The information collected from our digital trails or footprints is often used to improve outreach and grow audiences. For example, for my own blog, I installed Google Analytics, which allows me to track people’s browsing habits on my website.
As of March 18, 2023, within the past 28 days, I’ve had 35 users visit my site. I can also see information about my most popular pages and top content, and how visitors experience my site such as how long pages take to load (which 9.4s, considered poor… oops). This information should help me build an audience and engage them effectively. However, to be completely honest, although I have been checking my Google Analytics from time to time out of curiosity, I haven’t been using it to help improve my site for my audience.
I think that a big reason why I haven’t been doing so is because my site is turning out to be more like a digital garden than a blog. Digital gardens, according to Basu, are spaces that do not focus on growing audiences and having huge viewerships. Instead, they focus on personal growth, which is exactly what Spilling the Royaltea has been about. As my blog has developed, although I do have a target audience in mind, I’m not too worried about growing my audience, getting famous and rich, or any of that kind of stuff.
For now, I’m using my analytics simply as a way to satisfy my curiosity about who’s looking at my blog. I’m really enjoying my blogging process and especially like the lack of pressure to gain huge audiences, so I think that’s what I’ll be doing for the time being.
To Monetize or Not To Monetize?
So, all of this leads to the question of whether I should monetize my site. With the whole concept of digital gardens in mind and the idea of creating a space for me and my thoughts, I don’t foresee monetizing Spilling the Royaltea anytime in the near future.
Based on my own experience with monetized sites, I felt like ads make websites feel distant, incohesive, or even disturbing, since many of the ads from Google Adsense are often inappropriate. I want my blog to be as inviting and welcoming to users as possible and I want it to retain its intimate, personal feel. I don’t want users to believe I’m “using them” by exploiting their information and digital trails to extract money from them. With my own apprehensions about advertising and data collection in mind, I don’t want to create a space where others feel the same kinds of fears.
I also want my blog to reflect me and my thoughts only and with a third party who imposes their ads or has input on what kinds of content I post, it takes away from the intimacy of my blog. For me, the content I post is what matters, and I want users to focus on this too.
So although Spilling the Royaltea is simply a passion project (…or a school project) without any financial gain, I’m very satisfied with how the experience has been so far. It’s the joy of blogging that matters, not how much money I can get from it.
Basu, T. (2020, September 5). Digital gardens let you cultivate your own little bit of the internet. MIT Technology Review. https://www.technologyreview.com/2020/09/03/1007716/digital-gardens-let-you-cultivate-your-own-little-bit-of-the-internet/
Pod Academy. (2016, May 3). Digital breadcrumbs: The data trail we leave behind us. http://podacademy.org/podcasts/digital-breadcrumbs-our-data-trail/
Wong, O. (2023, March 14). All About Digital Literacy. Spilling the Royaltea. http://spilling-the-royaltea.com/process-posts/all-about-digital-literacy/
Lean Plum. (2019). [Monetization] [Stock Illustration]. https://www.leanplum.com/blog/free-app-monetization-methods/