Oy, the internet. Must it be so complicated? Can’t we all just have fun online and not worry so much? While some people do take that approach, but I certainly wouldn’t recommend it. If you’re reading this, chances are you’re active online and chances are you’re making one of these mistakes. OK, maybe you specifically aren’t doing these things, but many of our friends are.
1. Multiple Personalities
You use different websites for different parts of your life. You’re the professional you on LinkedIn. You are the friends and family you on Facebook. You’re the silly I’m out all night on a Saturday with my friends you on twitter.
While this approach of segmenting our lives may have made sense pre-internet, it is no longer a luxury we have. When I want to learn about you, I head straight to Google. It’s entirely possible that what I will find shows me much more than you intended. In addition to finding the professional you on LinkedIn, I may easily find content you shared on Facebook which you thought was only visible to friends, your ranty comments on YouTube videos and blog posts, and all sorts of photos of you (whether posted by you or someone else).
You’ve heard so much about the perils of oversharing that you’ve decided to be smart about how you approach your online presence. You know better than to post personal information revealing your vacation plans and when your house will be left empty and vulnerable. You know better than to complain about your neighbors and your boss online, lest they find out about it. You’ve heard the horror stories about people losing their jobs or destroying their reputation because too much was shared online.
You’ve heeded lessons that others have learned the hard way. The only problem is you’re overcompensating by not sharing enough information online. When someone Googles you, and believe me they are, are they finding the information that you want them to see or are they finding information that doesn’t tell your story in the best possible light? If you are not intentionally and strategically sharing information online, you may be defined by a hodgepodge of links to your extracurricular activities or from various sites that aggregate content about someone with your name, which may or may not indeed be you. It’s really a question of brand or be branded. Do you want to be defined by what is online about you by default, or take an active role in telling your story online?
3. Sharing, But Not Monitoring
You’re busily posting photos and updates online without taking the time to keep on eye on what the internet has to say about you. You’re under the impression that any information online about you is under your control because you decided to put it there.
When was the last time you googled yourself? Everyone else is googling you, so you’d better know what it is they’re finding when they do. While there are many sophisticated tools and strategies to monitor your reputation online, the first place to start is to set up Google alerts. Set up a Google alert for your name, nicknames, name of your business and other terms of particular interest. You will then receive an e-mail when that term appears online in a blog post, for example. Sure, it’ll also alert you when someone else with the same name is mentioned online, but this is a good thing. If another Irene Koehler got herself into a little legal trouble, I would definitely want to know about it so I could be sure to clarify things is anyone thought it was me.
This list is by no means complete. What common mistakes are you seeing people make? Please add them in the comments so that others can learn from your questions and suggestions.
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I tend to use Facebook as a fun place keeping up with friends, but make sure my account is not visable to anyone bar my friends.
Many people do forget how often Facebook change their privacy settings and when you thought you had made sure your settings kept your party pictures out of the public eye, Facebook makes a tweak and those pictures pop up in Google.
I think the best approach is, if you do have ‘a split personality’ online across different sites, make sure only those that you would want your employer (or mother) to see are visable, because one day they will come back to bite you.
Thanks for the comment, Carl. Great point about privacy settings on Facebook. It’s so important to understand them and use them. They do seem to change often, confusing many users. Still, once we post something online, we really have no control of what others do with it. Personally, if I had anything I didn’t want my employer or mother to see, I wouldn’t put it online in the first place. (In my case, this is purely hypothetical since my life is terribly dull and scandal-free.) 🙂
Thanks for the post, Irene. Excellent information.
Irene, I think some of the confusion and controversy exists around how to define “what I wouldn’t want my employer or mother to see.” I’ll leave aside the mother part for the moment. There is a real dilemma for people who want to use the internet for professional goals and for political ones – or even social causes or artistic expression.
One online friend of mine (who notably is self-employed) posts on his Facebook page a pretty even mix of gay rights activism, industry content (technical communications) and cute pet stuff. For some people, pleasing stodgy employers would mean sacrificing the world-changing social power in social.
Alternatively these people might choose to accept the professional consequences of being a human being with opinions or artwork that some people might not like, and might (unjustly and irrelevantly in many -though not all – cases, from my perspective) use against them.
Well said, Barbara. In addition to confusion, there is not one “right” way to articulate what does and doesn’t belong online. I have seen many post political and religious content unaware that it may not be a good fit for their professional brand. And, like you, I’ve seen some who feel it is important to share their personal beliefs and accept that it may draw people to them or drive them away. Either way, I think what’s most important to understand what can be seen and make informed decisions when sharing online.
I don’t think that “Multiple Personalities” is inherently a mistake. One just has to be aware of, and manage how these “multiple personalities” might be found. For example, set up a twitter alias for sharing the drinking stories, or something private with your friends.
Googling one’s self periodically will help with developing the knowledge to manage this properly.
Exactly! Many people also don’t realize that if they set up separate accounts with different usernames, but use the same email address to set it up that it can still be linked to them. Keeping things completely separate can be tricky.
I’m already monitoring my own name with google alerts (And A LOT of other important stuff as well), I have made my facebook completely closed for everyone else than my friends, if “professionals” add me on facebook,I give them limited access, and I know enough SEO to promote what I want to be seen in google when people search my name. (Which I will focus more on when it matters.)
AND I encourage people to do the same! Especially parts 1 and 2. 3 is a bit tricker though… Good tips for others though ;o)
did not finish reading the article before I googled myself!! Well thank goodness I was pleasantly surprised. But I am an out there share it all type of personality anyway.
I have a friend on the other hand that is petrified of all things internet…. and dopes not interact at all …although he is really quite www savy and has previously almost bought into a net marketing and services company with me.
I am studying the relationship between personality and infleunce/connector capacity. If you and your followers have any interest/knowledge of that please get in touch with me.
It is interesting that Barack Obama and Oprah have the same personality styles.