It seems like every day, there’s another story about someone foolishly using social media and getting fired for it. People get fired for old posts because they failed to think that anyone would go through them. If you don’t protect your reputation online, you could be the next head on the chopping block.
Here are 5 ways you could help protect your reputation while still enjoying the Internet.
1. Work Profile, Play Profile
You don’t need to be a digital hermit just to protect your online reputation. Many celebrities, politicians, and public figures have both a professional and private profile. Their private profile usually uses their initials, a middle name, or a nickname that only their friends and family know.
Having a work profile means that you don’t get left out of any professional events, being tagged in photos, or forgotten in conversations. A work profile gets to be massaged, with every post vetted, adding to the allure of your persona. It’s actually very exciting for people when they only get a little bit of information about you at a time.
A separate private profile allows your family to post group photos with you tagged in them. They can reach out to you directly with anything, rather than your public profile which could be managed by an assistant. A play profile also allows you to have you to have real conversations and explore your humorous side, warts and all.
The biggest thing to worry about when you have two profiles is that you’re never posting to the wrong one. The best way to manage your two profiles is for your personal devices to be logged into your private account while your work devices are on your public one. You can maintain the balance by having to move to a completely different device to post.
2. Start Over
If you’re about to step into the public realm, you could always just press reset on your old life. If you’re under 40, you’ve lived a good portion of your adulthood under the microscope of the web. People have been watching your every move for years.
If you need a refresh, there’s nothing wrong with canceling an old account and starting a new one. You can even archive your old account, save the old information, and then scrub it from the world.
Starting from scratch for some people is like grabbing a ticket halfway across the world and starting over. It’s like moving to a new city where you don’t know anyone. Many people report feeling relieved and happier once they were no longer tethered to the false sense of connection and identity that social media provides.
3. Google Yourself
Searching for yourself online is the best way to see what your reputation really looks like to others. If you don’t see anything wildly incriminating in your first page or two, you should be in good luck.
Try to remember any crazy events you were at, political protest for causes you no longer support, or now-problematic celebrities you loved. If there are photos of you shaking hands with Sadaam Hussein, you might want to get control of those images. If there’s a report you wrote in the 90s about what a great movie producer Harvey Weinstein was, you might need to take those posts down.
If you posted to a blog that you no longer have the credentials for, all is not lost. It’s common for this to happen and tech support should be prepared to help you out.
Run searches on different engines. Use the name of any schools or universities that you attended. Plug in any incriminating terms if you’re looking for a specific embarrassing event.
4. Don’t Drink and Post
Drinking and posting online is a surefire way to end up in deeper trouble than you intended. Being drunk in photos can come back to bite you if you look a little too drunk. Everyone needs time to unwind, but yours shouldn’t overlap with using social media.
Lots of people post wild strange things online and then try to call it an accident, a hack, or a momentary lapse of judgment. It’s hard for the public to believe these excuses if the incidents keep happening. You’re better off just logging out of social media and off any blogging sites if you’re out having a good time.
If you’re really having a good time, what are you doing on social media anyhow? Perhaps you need a break from social media. View here for more ideas on what you could do instead of being on social media.
5. “Don’t Be Evil”
While this was once a key slogan in Google’s code of conduct, it’s a great credo for all of us to live by. Making conscious efforts to only do good in the world can easily trickle down to our online life. If we’re always trying to be constructive and make the world a better place, “don’t be evil” is a perfect statement to remember.
Being online allows us to say the mean things we’re thinking to a wide group of people without having to start the person we’re talking about in the face. That level of anonymity can belie some serious viciousness. “Don’t be evil” is a reminder to avoid that viciousness.
If you have the tools to hack into a system, to break into your ex-partner’s inbox, or to mess around with for former employer’s computer, think twice. Not only could you be violating the law, but you could be violating your own personal code of ethics.
Remember, don’t be evil.
Protect Your Online Reputation Forever
When you set out to protect your online reputation, you may not have realized it would be a constant struggle. Every post that you or anyone else makes about you could have ramifications out of your control. Without enough protection, you could be the next person on the news posted next to photos of a racy or poorly chosen Halloween costume.
If you’re more interested in building your company’s reputation, check out our guide for tips.