We’ve all been warned to think before we speak, but thanks to the Internet we’ve 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 couldn’t care less about those pictures in which you’re chugging a beer and sporting an itty-bitty miniskirt now, but when you’re looking for a job—yes, even a part-time one while you’re still in school—or 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 that’s longer than your arm, a bawdy online reputation could cause prospective employers to toss your resume right into the recycle bin.
Now that you’ve realized it wasn’t such a great idea to make fun of your history professor on your school’s official Facebook page and you’re 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) it’s 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 name—there 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 don’t 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 you—and 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 isn’t supposed to see them. Or here’s an idea—if you’d feel embarrassed if your mother somehow saw your “private” pictures or read your status updates, don’t 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 don’t 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 it’s tempting to type out a nasty message in the heat of the moment and click on the “send” button when you’re mad at someone, don’t do it. Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and wait a few minutes. Chances are, you’ll change your mind. Even if you delete something after the fact, someone could have seen it and captured a screen shot.
We’re all human and humans make mistakes, but your online reputation shouldn’t 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.
Have something to say? Feel free to add comments or additional information.