Your Online Activity: Welcome To The New First Impression

Online MeetingRemember all of those lessons and advice on first impressions?  Maybe it was for a job interview.  Or meeting a date’s parents.  You
were probably advised to be on time, dress nice, maintain eye contact, answer questions clearly, so forth and so on.  The point being is that initial meeting can “make or break” your future relationship or opportunity.  Well, chances are that today . . . they’ve already “met you” before you ever met the other person.   How?  Your online social profiles and activity.

To give you an example from the other week.  We were holding a youth sports tournament at work.  Some of these young athletes have gone on to the pros and college scouts and coaches had come as far as Michigan to check out these athletes.  I sat down at my desk and fired up Hootsuite to check mentions and our hashtag uses.  There it was, a post by a young lady expressing her displeasure in expletives to the early hour for start times.  A colleague overseeing the event came by to also see if there was any “buzz”.  I showed him and he asked me to click on her profile, and there was the stream of posts filled with expletives with a profile that described her sports ambitions.  My colleague went out and found her and her Mother and politely hinted that she may want to watch what she posts publicly because college coaches were not only present, it is something they look at with potential recruits.  She posted more than enough for anyone to create a perception of who she is whether she intended it fun or not.

Today college recruiters, coaches, and employers do check online profiles and activity.  I’ve seen more than enough to know that adults are often not “getting it” in regards to this and they are definitely not teaching young people about the impression they are making online.  And whether one agrees or disagrees with the idea that online activity provides a true representation of the individual is inconsequential, because others are looking at this information and factoring it in to their decisions.

So what do you do to be yourself online comfortably while protecting your reputation?  Here’s a few bits of advice:

  1. Set your boundaries – I use the general rule of thumb that if I would not do it, say it, or wear it in a crowded public place, then I shouldn’t online either regardless of privacy settings.  You can do whatever you want online the same as life, but that does NOT mean there are not repercussions to your behavior.  Just because you’re not posting publicly doesn’t mean one of those connections couldn’t pass that post along.  
  2. Update those privacy settings – Determine what you want public and what you do not want public.  For example, most of my posts on certain networks aren’t posted publicly and I don’t allow others to “tag” me in photos without my permission.  Others do not know when photos were taken or the circumstances so someone else tagging you in a photo that isn’t your “best time” or the best association and those photos now showing up associated with you could have a negative impact.
  3. Choose who you connect with – Every request to connect doesn’t have to accepted.  Every follower doesn’t have to be followed back.  It is awkward sometimes because you may actually see the person out-and-about or within certain circles, but you just don’t want to give them that access to you and that’s ok.  If they ask, explain to them your reason.
  4. Update passwords – Accounts get hacked and the worst is a mass negative or damaging post going out to everyone you’ve connected with and/or publicly.  Keep your accounts secure.

Online social network activity are who we are.  Your profile is your “resume “.  That is the way it’s viewed and there is no indication it will change.  These are great services and have great benefits, but like anything we have to use them wisely and teach our children to use them wisely.

How you protect your reputation online?  How do you teach young people about appropriate online activity?

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Author:Brad West

I live in Palm Coast, FL with my family and have assisted my local parish with our website and communications. Our parishes today can benefit a great deal from technology. Whether it's improving communications, community building, evangelizing, business operations, and much more; we have the tools today. To help provide some direction and advice to parishes and parishioners, I wrote and published an eBook titled "The Connected Church" which is available through Barnes and Noble (Nooks and Nook apps) as well as Amazon (Kindle and Kindle apps).