According to OCLC (n.d.) there are two forms in which individuals engage with the Internet: a digital resident or a digital visitor. A digital resident refers to a user whose engagement on the Internet leaves persistent social traces. Whereas a digital visitor is anonymous in their use and leaves behind no social trace apart from such things as their Internet Service Provider’s connection information.

Digital Presence (2).jpg

In the image above I have highlighted three differences between a visitor and a resident. Firstly, the two user types leave varied traces online. For example, a Twitter handle “@mezzie97” is a social identity label that I have created which allows other users to track my activity and communicate with me. Increasingly so, websites require the user to create a login. With this the companies that own these sites can review the content a user has created and track the areas of the site that has been of interest to them. This data can be used to build-up a profile of the resident and enables efficient and targeted marketing. Any subsequent purchasing decisions will also be fed back to the profile.

On the other hand according to Le Cornu and White (2012), digital visitors may reject the opportunity to develop digital identities as “issues of privacy and fear of identity theft are paramount”. Privacy is a notable concern for many individuals; data breaches such as occurred at UK network provider Three which affected information of over a hundred thousand customer accounts, (BBC, 18 November 2016) being one of many data hacks that occurred in the last 12 months.

With the growth of the internet, since its creation in the 80s, and the phenomenon of social media and networking sites, there has been a huge increase in the number of digital residents. According to Prensky (2001) the “net-generation” or “digital-generation” of the 21st century has grown up around the digital language to become native ‘speakers’. And these natives’ skills, he notes again, have been “perfected through years of interaction and practice.” This knowledge of the digital universe makes them less reluctant to create their online identity and less afraid of leaving a digital footprint.

Following Pensky’s findings, I have concluded that I am a digital native who has used my skills and knowledge to become a digital resident. Despite my concerns about data privacy I use online tools on a day-to-day basis from banking to socialising through to education. However, as online tools change and develop and become more ubiquitous, I find myself asking: Is it good to be a digital resident?


BBC (2016) Three phone scam data breach hit 133, 000 customers. Available at: (Accessed: 12 February 2017).

OCLC (2017) Digital visitors and residents. Available at: (Accessed: 12 February 2017).

Prensky, M. (2001) Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants, Part II: ‘Do they really think differently?’, NCB University Press, 9(6).

White, D. and Le Cornu, A. (2012) ‘Visitors and residents: A new typology for online engagement’, First Monday, 16(9).


13 thoughts on “Life as a Digital Resident

  1. Hi Mary, I hope you’re well.

    I feel you have a made a fantastic start to the module with this blog! A really thoroughly enjoyable read, drawing upon a number of sources beyond the recommended reading list, which provides a number of different avenues I had not come across myself.

    For me the infographic you have created condensed a large amount of information in a more eye catching and engaging manner than other styles would permit.

    I love the use of your Twitter handle as an example (I’ll give you a follow) however the question that springs to mind is, when using social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter are we really a “resident” when we have the settings too private, allowing for no trace of our online identity to be found? (I know this is something I have done with my personal accounts for prospective employers).

    Mark Zuckerberg expressed concerns of whether we can really consider ourselves as digital residents when we hide behind a mask of anonymity and the veil of digital privacy (Zimmer, 2010).

    I look forward to hearing what you think.

    Feel free to drop me a follow on Twitter @harrietpigott2 x


    Zimmer, M. (2010) Facebook’s Zuckerbery: “Having two identities for yourself is an example of lack of integrity”. Available at: (Accessed: 15 Feburary 2017).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Harriet,

      Thank you for commenting on my post and the kind words that you wrote. In regards to your question about ‘privacy’ settings, I believe that such settings only work to an extent. To be truly private Facebook setting will need to be “only you” however, this removes the social aspect of the site. If you are interested in developing further understanding of the different types of privacy settings on Facebook I would recommend the following site:

      Happy reading,


  2. Hello Mary,
    I really enjoyed reading through your blog post, I found it to be very insightful.
    The digital presence image really stands out and hold a lot of helpful information and fits in very well with the theme of the post.
    including a link to your own twitter account is a brilliant way of advertising it within different platforms of media.
    Following the last sentence of your text, there is a strong counter argument as to being a digital resident some people would argue that it is causing people to rely to heavily on technology and do not see having an online social life as a ‘real’ social life. I myself would say that it is a good thing to be a digital resident, when it comes to living an online life, you can access any information required and gather new groups of friends with similar likes and dislikes to yourself. Any thoughts?

    Thank you,

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Charley,

      Thank you for your comment! I agree that information accessibility is a benefit of being a digital resident. However, I must argue that such information we provide online can be both manipulated and violated. After having several hundred pounds removed from my bank after cyber fraud I have reduced the spread of my resident status.

      Thank you,


  3. I really liked the graphic you used in order to demonstrate the differences between digital residents and digital visitors. It lays it out really well and makes it very easy to understand the different concepts.
    I also appreciate ending the blog with a question. Despite being a digital resident myself, I would actually say that I do not think it’s a good thing. Increasingly, people are leaving more traces online without thinking about future repercussions. Of course, there’s the data breaches like you discuss in the case of Three. But there are many more issues with having a large online presence. It is now common knowledge that employers browse search engines and social media for information on applicants. This also raises the question of is this a restriction on freedom of speech. Knowing that future employers could browse your social media, people might feel less inclined to share their views or opinions or anything that might look bad.


  4. Hi Mary,
    First of all, thanks for this very interesting post. Your infographic is making a clear distinction between the 2 categories: Visitor and Resident, by comparing the three criteria that you used: traceability, identity, and feedback.
    However, for myself the most interesting part of your writing is the matter of privacy, considered a concern by many individuals. I would also say that it is my case. A proof of this is the fact that while surfing the web, I constantly check the left corner of the browser. By doing this I make sure that the pages that I navigate on are secured.
    Moving on, the question from the end of the article is very well asked. I think that living and working on the web these days require a high level of caution which should prevent scams.
    Thank you for this great read and keep it up with the rest of your posts.
    Andrei 🙂


  5. Porra! ASantos. Tens razão. Fui um idiota. Aparentemente os portes são mesmo 16 euros por um livro, 17 por dois, etc… a somar aos 15 do preço do livro. Peço desculpa à netcom2 por ter cometido esta idiotice…


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