Protecting your online image

Here are few tips to maintain your digital dignity:

1. Ego Surf. Type your name in quotes into your favorite boolean-enabled search engine and see what comes up. Did you choose google, yahoo! or bing for that first surf? Now try it in pipl or spezify and see what else shows up. This will give you an idea of what a future HR department (or angry Ex, or curious coworker) might find out about you.

2. Think before you post. I ask my students to review the Albion’s Netiquette Site at the start of every online class, but it is engrained in my posting habits as well. Respect others, respect yourself, and don’t post anything you wouldn’t say out loud in a crowded room.

3. Post when you are calm and (for want of a better word) sober. Post at your best times, and if you aren’t sure whether your present mood will represent you in the best light, turn off the computer or mobile device and stew on your thoughts for a bit. (This rule of thumb can also help you avoid other pitfalls, such as signing up for committee work that you may regret later, or buying unnecessary items at online auctions!)

4. Always save your posts or tweets in draft mode if you’re not entirely sure. Composing “offline” allows you to spell & grammar check, or to re-read your post at a more lucent or calm moment. It’s easier to laugh privately at a statement of passion when it’s still on your hard drive than try to stop the forwarding of your outburst through online sites.

5. Watch what your friends post. You may have had a great time at that party, but it wasn’t your intention for the world to see your DDR moves on the tabletop. You can un-tag yourself from some situations, but if your latest piercing ends up in a viral video, that’s harder to escape.

In the case of your online image, it’s best to plan for perfection rather than beg forgiveness, but do keep in mind as social media evolves, most HR departments understand that we all have a life outside of work. If you have an embarrassing moment that just won’t go away, plan on having a humorous and self-deprecating explanation handy. This shows people you can react to difficulty with grace.

Have you been snooped out for something you regret? Or have you been recognized for your private acts of courage and charity? Share in a comment!