While at first it may have been not a little vain to plug your name into a search engine and see what The Interwebs think of you it, it’s fast becoming a smart thing to do. It’s amazing how big a digital footprint even Luddites have. As a result of this, companies, and even law enforcement, are increasingly turning towards the internet for evidence.
A few years back a Patriots cheerleader was fired because of a controversial picture. No, it’s not what you think.
More recently there’s the classy individual who posted a tweet bragging about his drunk driving hit and run.
These are two of the more serious examples of the the blurring of public and private that is happening on social networking sites everywhere. What used to be penned into a diary or push-pined into a bedroom cork board are now posted on Facebook or Twitter or Tumblr or, yes, even WordPress. It’s a tough adjustment to make and mistakes in judgement are bound to happen. I’ll freely admit I’m not better than anyone, I’ve made some mistakes myself.
Adding to the fun is the amorphous and ever-changing security settings on these sites. Even if a post is protected at the time of the writing that doesn’t mean future changes won’t unveil your soul-baring monologue or venting rant. You must be diligent in maintaining your online presence. Here are some of the things you should keep an eye on as you post thoughts or pictures:
- Would you mind an employer seeing it? How about dear old grandma?
- Would your inebriated friend mind you posting that photo of them?
- Is what you’re posting depicting something illegal?
In addition to keeping your own house in order and paying attention to the property management rule changes (read: web site admins) you also must beware of doppelgangers. Why don’t you go ahead and Google yourself right now. I mean it, give it a go. I’ll wait. Did you do it? Good.(And for shame those of you that just kept reading, for shame!) Now how many of the hits are actually you? If you’ve got a common name, like John Smith, there’s probably a plethora of people that aren’t you and most people assume that there’s a good chance the John Smith they know isn’t the John Smith on that lewd site. If you’ve got a unique name, like Captain Bearclaw McAwesome, chances are all the links are going to be of your glorious self. In each of those cases, it’s fairly easy to maintain a healthy online presence. But for the rest of us it’s a bit tougher. If there are a smattering of results I could easily be mistaken for any one of my digital doppelgangers.
In Googling myself I found a few unsavory characters calling themselves Brad. There were a few comments that I didn’t want to be associated with. So I googled “Bradley” and was more pleased with the results. So I set about changing my Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin accounts all to say Bradley. Perhaps in time there will be a ne’er-do-well that treats that name in a nefarious manner and I’ll have to change back to Brad. But that’s why it’s important to stay on top of your online presence; because with the amount of data that’s on The Interwebs, it’s not always clear that the picture of the pantless Donald Duck costumed fellow isn’t you.