Weve all been warned to think before we speak, but thanks to the Internet weve also got to think before we post, update, or share. And if your social media accounts privacy settings allow your friends to tag you in their photos and status updates, your name or picture could be out there for anyone and everyone to see.
You probably couldnt care less about those pictures in which youre chugging a beer and sporting an itty-bitty miniskirt now, but when youre looking for a jobyes, even a part-time one while youre still in schoolor trying to secure an internship, you could be hurting your chances of getting hired.
Even if you have an impressive 4.0 and list of extra-curricular activities thats longer than your arm, a bawdy online reputation could cause prospective employers to toss your resume right into the recycle bin.
Now that youve realized it wasnt such a great idea to make fun of your history professor on your schools official Facebook page and youre feeling a little queasy about that time your roommate tagged you on his check-in at the local strip club (complete with a photo for proof) its probably a good time to clean up your online reputation.
Here are five ways to help things from getting worse:
1. Search for your own name. Type your name into a search engine and see what you can find. If you have a fairly common namethere could easily be a few hundred John Smiths in one city alone you may have to dig around a little bit, but you should still be able to find yourself. This might be a bit easier if you have a less common name. Either way, see what you can find. Is your name appearing in news articles, blog posts, pictures, or public records? Did you find anything negative?
2. Create accounts on all of the social media sites. People who love Facebook do not necessarily feel the same about Twitter, Pinterest, and MySpace (do people even use MySpace anymore?!) Even if you dont actively use them, create an account using your real name on all social media platforms. There are no guarantees, but this may help prevent an imposter from pretending to be youand posting things that could get you into trouble.
3. Tweak your privacy settings. Social media sites have privacy settings. Use them. But always remember that things have a way of getting out. A friend could easily text or email your private photos to someone who isnt supposed to see them. Or heres an ideaif youd feel embarrassed if your mother somehow saw your private pictures or read your status updates, dont post them.
4. Delete any potentially-questionable photos and remove your name from your friends photos. Go through your online photo albums and delete anything that could make people go Hmmm Then do the same with your friends photos. Untag yourself from anything that is vulgar, embarrassing, or you just dont like for whatever reason. If your friend is a true friend, he or she will delete the photo completely.
5. Wait five minutes before posting comments, updating your status, or sharing photos. Although its tempting to type out a nasty message in the heat of the moment and click on the send button when youre mad at someone, dont do it. Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and wait a few minutes. Chances are, youll change your mind. Even if you delete something after the fact, someone could have seen it and captured a screen shot.
Were all human and humans make mistakes, but your online reputation shouldnt cause you to lose out on a job or other exciting opportunity. Always remember to think twice before you act!
Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.
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