Rants about assignments. Schemes to get out of assignments or work. Compromising selfies. Let’s face it: in today’s world where it seems like everybody has to know what you just ate or how cute your cat is, we often post what’s on our mind without pausing to think what the consequences are.
However, with every picture you take, every post you make, people are judging you. Your reputation with them is based on the type of content you have posted. But maybe that’s okay for you. You are just being yourself. Don’t you want people to know who the real you is?
Yes and no. You want to be true to your identity so that your connections are a good fit. However, there is such a thing as TMI (Too Much Information). When you have a social presence online and somebody who doesn’t know you very well searches up on you, their behavior towards you is heavily influenced by the impression they have on you. You might be a responsible and highly intelligent individual, but your acquaintances and/or potential employers won’t know that from pictures of your St. Patrick’s Day escapades. Even if you have other meaningful information or opinions to offer, they are overshadowed by the poor reputation you have with your peers. People generally will be wary of this reputation and are unlikely to be so accepting unless they’ve already developed a rapport or trust in you.
As a student, you may want to keep a good reputation that demonstrates how reliable or resourceful you are. Your professors may have a certain opinion about you that biases the way they treat you. Although they shouldn’t, we are all human and can’t help favoring certain people. Perhaps you have a reputation to be a quick learner; your professor may have a more active interest in teaching you, giving you a better learning experience. Your fellow students may also feel differently about you as well. They may not want to cooperate with you if you are seen to always be partying, as they may stereotype you as unreliable.
This especially has a huge impact when it comes to employment, particularly for those students who are just finishing school and looking to join the workforce. Leaving the academic bubble and stepping into the real world is a huge change; your midnight debauchery that made you look like such a stud now could be the one thing that prevents you from getting hired, despite your polished resume and glowing reviews. As social media is becoming more and more mainstream, employers are finding it the most reliable way of finding out about a person. As people naturally post about their lives, their online social presence becomes a pretty accurate representation of their brand.
So what is the right way to protect your brand? The best way to manage your online reputation is to keep your brand honest and true to what you are, but avoid making public any content that could potentially affect you negatively in the future. You want to show people who you are so they can feel comfortable working or interacting with you, as you now are more familiar. However, you don’t want to scare them off either. Showing your good side gives people a chance to get to know you and grow a relationship where there is a mutual trust and both parties can fully express who they are. One way to do so is to privatize certain information or content so that only you or select people can view it. In this way, those of whom you haven’t developed a strong level of rapport with yet will not be put off by your acquired taste.
The simplest way, however is to simply think before you post. On the web, once something has been posted, it can immediately be seen by everyone and the effect is permanent. In fact, there are also online archives of the entire Internet, which can call back any particular page. You can begin to see just how permanent the effects of online communications can be. Even if you try to change people’s opinion about you, the damage is already done; that information has been stored or seen and can be used against you. Instead, focus on highlighting the positive aspects of your brand that you want people to know about. This way, you keep attitudes towards you positive and garner the respect from your future peers. So before you decide to post that juicy update, simply take the moment to pause and think before clicking “Submit” and ask if this reflects well on you.