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Is there aninimity online?

December 2, 2009

Starting this blog has raised all sorts of questions about my identity online.  I am making myself more visible to everyone in the world, which I think is pretty cool, but will it come back to haunt me later?  In a world made small through the interconnectivity of the internet, you really can’t hide anymore.

This will be the first of two posts.  In this, I will address why you might want to protect yourself a little more and then how.

Why? Job search:

In the stone age before the internet, the potential employee could control what the potential employer know about her in the interview process.  You submitted a resume filled with information you have specifically tailored to make you look like a high quality applicant.  The references supplied are also chosen strategically.  And finally, the interview allows you to charm them with your wits and intelligence.  That would basically be it.

Now, the first thing HR will do is Google you.  Share a name with Lindsay Lohan, bummer for you.  When I Google myself, most of what comes up is from high school and college — articles published, sports team rosters, etc. — but you can also find my Facebook page, Linkedin account and Twitter handle: a treasure trove of information.

Luckily, for my industry,  involvement in those types of media is a plus, but for companies less willing to adapt to the Web 1.0 (let alone 2.0) World, your Twitpic from last weekend might just be a deal breaker.

Hopefully your various social media accounts are fairly innocuous (we will address how to make them so in the next installment). However, a recent study found that  social media profiles are not showing an idealized version of yourself (like your resume, for instance) but rather a realistic version.  This seems strange if you have nearly complete control over the content.  Why, in a world where nothing is private would anyone take that risk?  Answer: your friends.

Your friends love you and want to show that love.  However, it manifests in strange ways sometimes on the internet.   You are trying so hard to make your profile look decent, but then your friend comes along and posts something profane on your Facebook wall, or uploads an unfortunate picture of you onto Flickr.  I am sure that memory means a lot to you, but will it cost you your job?

Why? Your future political career:

The impact of your online presence should be a concern for your present job search, but the good new is, most of the bad information can be deleted right now.  So clean up your social media accounts and the job is yours! could be yours if you are qualified.

However, are things ever really deleted on the internet?  Frighteningly, no.

If you want to run for political office, everything will come back to bite you.  As we  saw in the most recent election, Sarah Palin’s days as a beauty queen became relevant part of the race.  It’s still unclear if the pictures of her in a bathing suit hurt her or helped her….

Most websites, including Google and Facebook archive everything.  That means that even when you have untagged a picture on Facebook, it’s still floating around cyber space waiting to rear its ugly head (this goes back to the friends being your worst enemy thing).  Still, an untagged picture might be the least of your worries, what about your web history, searches or downloads….

Political races are going to be very interesting in the future as the internet starts to become more relevant historically.

This is not to say that all of you will run for office and should thusly be afraid of the possible ramifications of your Twitter feed.  The political career is merely a metaphor about the future.  You don’t know what your future holds, but you don’t want to jeopardize it now with some e-frivolity.

Why? You don’t want to get robbed:

I mean that literally.  Not only do you have to fear identity thieves online, but also real robbers.  There have been cases recently where people are updating their Twitters or Facebook statuses with their locations and their houses are subsequently robbed.  If there is too much information available, you are putting yourself a risk. Very scary.

Its seems that social media platforms want you to put as much information out there as possible.  When I tweet from Uber Twitter I can opt to include my location (wouldn’t you like to know…).   But how much is too much?  Hometown?  Employer?  School?  Perhaps exact location might be taking it too far, but there are some neat applications that allow people with similar interests to meet based on location.

It is up to each person to decide how much information is appropriate.  In the next installment, we will tell you how to control what you are putting out there.  So stay tuned for tips on how to protect you and your brand online.


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