To the graduating class of 2012, you are entering a world that has been grossly advanced by technology – one that has changed the way we live, communicate and more importantly, how we work.
And it's not just about the ability to work from home using an Internet connection. While that technology - and every other technological advancement brought about thanks to the Internet is vital – there is something far more important to tend to as soon as you grab hold of that diploma and walk across that stage: your online identity.
Sure you have your physical being who is going to attend job interviews and meet with college representatives with a fresh polished appearance and rehearsed responses for all those “So tell me why you want to be here?” questions you’ll have to answer.
But you cannot forget in today’s world that you no longer have just your physical being as a representation. The online world depicts a version of yourself that you may think only your peers are keeping tabs on.
The reality is as technology becomes more and more central to our everyday lives, what we do and say online is actually becoming important. Communications that take place over an Internet connection – whether it is a video conference session on Skype, a Facebook (News - Alert) wall post, or a private chat on IM, are being used for everything from helping to conduct police investigations to offering potential employers a glimpse at who you are. Sign out of your accounts and Google (News - Alert) yourself for a quick peek at what is easily accessible about you to the public.
And let’s face it, anyone can form an opinion in a matter of seconds if they see a picture of you making kissy faces into the mirror with an outfit you probably might never wear outside your bedroom or spilling a beer erratically while you pose at a concert from the past weekend. These images can speak volumes for you in ways you didn’t intend them to.
Here are some tips on what you should do right now to clean up your social media pages as soon as possible.
1. CHOOSE YOUR PROFILE IMAGE WISELY – This is perhaps one of the most important things to do to clean up your social media page. Even if you have a tight restriction on everything else you share or post, your main photo will still pop up alongside your name and many times having just a photo and no other context to go along with it, can actually be more damaging. You don’t need a professional headshot, but something that shows who you are, just not after a few drinks on Friday night, is probably best.
2. MANAGE ACCOUNT PRIVACY – Most sites today understand the value in user privacy (or have been under constant pressure to protect users) - so chances are there are many ways to block, personalize and censor your content. Keep things private. If there’s an option to make things only visible to certain people, you should use that capability to at least ensure potential employers don’t have a peek into anything you would prefer they didn’t know. This includes questionable status updates with profanity or over the top venting about anything work-related happening that day. You’ll also want to make sure your check-ins are filtered - after all how will you explain checking in at the beach when you complained of a stomach bug and took off early to get home and rest?
3. MONITOR YOUR PHOTOS AND YOUR FRIENDS - Unfortunately, even if you have all of your ducks in line and keep a spotless online image, you may have a reckless friend or two who is either unaware or uncaring of the possible impact tagging you in a racy photo can have. To combat this, set-up your account to require preapprovals and take the few seconds to check what people want to tag (News - Alert) you in. You’ll also want to monitor your friends. Separate contacts into different groups and set them up to view only the media and content you deem appropriate for that group.
4. THINK BEFORE YOU TYPE- This may be one of the most important elements to keeping you out of the hot seat in a number of different scenarios – and it goes hand-in-hand with the age-old saying, “Think before you speak.” The same applies to the online world. It much easier to type what you are thinking in your mind and hit send than it is to speak some of your thoughts out loud in public. But this can be very dangerous if you are posting without any filter and not stopping to think about what you are typing. If you wouldn’t say it to someone out loud in public, you probably shouldn’t be posting it on your wall.
Most of these tips may seem like easy, no-brainers, but the world we live in can make remembering to filter ourselves on our own personal online journals difficult. While technological innovations have improved our lives it has increased the need for care and caution in the very public domain that is the Internet, especially for those entering the workforce and beginning their career paths.