Heading Out on Your Own — Day 9: Managing Your Online Reputation

by Brett & Kate McKay on August 9, 2012 · 39 comments

in Heading Out On Your Own

All the basic life skills we’ve covered so far in this series have been things that your dad, and even your granddad, had to learn when he left home for the first time too.

But today’s young man faces a new challenge that Pops never encountered: managing his online reputation.

Despite the nascent nature of this skill, I truly believe it’s one of the most important things we’ll talk about in this series. As the line between the offline and online world gets increasingly blurry, your online reputation is your reputation. Before you meet your freshman roommate, before you pick up a date, before you shake the hand of a potential employer…you better believe they’ve already Googled you, already formed a first, first impression about you, your interests, and what kind of person you are. Thus, if you’re not careful and conscious about the content you create online, you can end up shooting yourself in the foot in all areas of your life.

Heading Out on Your Own…And Into a Fishbowl World

Leaving for college or another kind of adventure after high school has long been an exciting and heady time. It’s an age where you’re experimenting with ideas and values, testing new freedoms, meeting new people, and often changing your mind about who you are and what you want out of life. One week you feel one way, and the next you feel another. During this process you often make mistakes, and do bone-headed things that twenty years later will still make you wonder, “What was I thinking?”

Just a decade ago, only you, and a few of your closest friends, would have held the memory of those crazy and sometimes cringe-worthy moments. The only record of them could be found by digging up a private photo album or journal.

Today…it’s a whole new ball game.

Now, everything you do and say can potentially become part of your permanent and public record. Everybody’s got a smartphone and can snap a picture of you anywhere, anytime and post it online. And things that go up online about you and from you can remain there forever. Mistakes you made when you were just 19 can haunt you for the rest of your life. Being a young man used to mean you could entirely reinvent yourself by moving to a new place and making new friends, but now your online reputation will follow you wherever you go.

I don’t mean to sound all doom and gloom about it. But that’s the sobering reality of living in the Internet Age, and it doesn’t help to bury one’s head in the sand and try to whatever that reality away. It absolutely doesn’t mean that college can’t still be the fun, spontaneous experience it’s always been; it just means you need to take a conscious, proactive approach to taking responsibility for what parts of that experience end up online and in the public eye.

Why Is Proactively Managing Your Online Reputation So Important?

One of the greatest things about the internet is that it is a giant pot that people can both add to and take from. This puts the most enormous wealth of knowledge in human history right at our fingertips and provides an endless amount of inspiration that can be added onto and “remixed.”

The downside of the big internet pot, is that the moment you put something into the pot, you pretty much lose all control over it. Many viral embarrassments have started out as something someone just wanted to share with a few good friends. But those friends shared it with their friends, who shared it with their friends…on and on until it ended up on Tosh.O.

There are essentially no guaranteed take backs when it comes to what you put online. You can erase your Facebook status, blog post, comment, tweet, or video, but someone else may very well have already shared it, copied it, taken a screenshot of it, or downloaded the video and reposted it somewhere else. How websites looked on a certain date in time are captured and archived on sites like the WayBack Machine (take a look at AoM circa 2008!). Emails that you thought you deleted forever can still sometimes be retrieved, and just because you deleted an email doesn’t mean the person you sent it to didn’t archive it. If someone else wants to post something of yours, you may not be able to get them to take it down without suing.

All of which is to say, pretty every piece of digital content you create can potentially exist forever. And this digital record can be accessed by any of the 250 million internet users in the US, not to mention the 2 billion online all over the world.

What’s on that record can have a big impact on both your personal and professional life.

Your college’s admissions office may have Googled you when they looked over your application. As soon as your freshman roommate knew you’d be bunking with him, he Googled you. When you network with someone at a party and tell them about your great idea, they’ll Google you later. And 81% of singles say they Google or check the Facebook page of someone before meeting him or her for a date.

Even though only 7% of Americans think their online reputation influences hiring decisions, in reality, 75% of US companies have made an online screening a formal part of the hiring process, 85% of recruiters and HR professionals say that having a positive online reputation influences their hiring decisions, and 70% of recruiters say they have rejected candidates based on something they found about them online. And since those numbers come from a study done in 2009, they’re undoubtedly even higher now.

What kinds of online discoveries cause recruiters and HR personnel to push your resume to the trash? This chart shows the most common red flags employers look for:

As you can see, it’s not just content you create that employers are checking out, it’s stuff your friends and colleagues post too. Be careful who you associate with.

Some young folks may be tempted to respond by saying, “Well, if a company is going to reject me for posting pictures of my drunken revelry, I wouldn’t want to work for them anyway.” But that’s pretty short-sighted. I’d venture to say that these companies aren’t rejecting candidates so much because they like to drink or swear, but rather that their willingness to show off these behaviors publicly shows a lack of judgment and wisdom. Not at all an unreasonable assumption.

The information that new friends and potential employers can find about you online may not even be true. Some people will try to verify it, some will not. And what they see will often come without any context – maybe you were being funny, maybe it’s an inside joke, but they won’t know that, they’ll simply make immediate judgments about what they find. This is why when it comes to managing your online reputation, you must be both proactive and defensive — deleting anything inappropriate,  wisely choosing the digital content you create, and purposefully creating positive content about yourself.

Self-Reflect Before You Self-Reveal

“Young people in particular often self-reveal before they self-reflect. There is no eraser button today for youthful indiscretion.” –James Steyer

There are some practical ways to manage your online reputation, and we’ll get to them in a moment. But the first step in taking responsibility for your online presence is creating a mindset for how you want to approach your online life.

Matt Ivester, the author of lol..OMG! (despite the silly-sounding title, this is actually a great book, with solid advice from the guy who learned about online reputation management firsthand from his misadventures in founding Juicycampus.com), suggests three questions to ask yourself before you put something online:

1. Why are you doing this?

Why? This is the most important question of all, and one that unfortunately usually goes unasked and uncontemplated.

Today’s colleges are welcoming the first “digital natives:” they’ve never known a time when the internet wasn’t a huge part of their lives. And even for those who are old enough to have used encyclopedias for elementary-school research papers, interacting and participating online has become so ubiquitous that it’s hard to imagine that life was ever any other way. This is just how things are, and we do what everyone else is doing, so much so that we hardly ever ask why we are doing those things.  Once we do start asking why, the answers are surprisingly hard to come up with and articulate.

Why do you update your status or share a link on Facebook? Do you want to share news? Are you bored? Do you want to be thought clever? Are you trying to make someone else jealous? Do you want to see if people feel the same way as you? Why?

Why do you care how many likes or upvotes something you submit on Facebook or Reddit gets? Is it confirmation that you shared something with value? Why?

Why do you leave comments on blog posts? Do you want the author of the blog to know that you appreciated the article? Do you think you have an insight to add that might help another reader? Do you want the author to know how and why they are wrong? Why? What do you hope to accomplish? Do you think it will change their mind? Is it because the psychological angst you feel when you think someone is wrong needs to be discharged? Why?

Why do you participate in online forums? Does it provide a feeling of camaraderie? Do you like to hear others’ opinions? Why do you respond when you think those opinions are wrong? Why do you care what a stranger thinks about you? Why?

When you ponder the why behind creating any kind of online content, from a status update to a YouTube video, you may come up with a reason that you find satisfactory and worthwhile. Or you may find that your motivation is hard to make sense of and decide it’s not worth your time. Either way, by asking why, you’ll become what Ivester calls “a conscious creator of content.”

2. Is now the right time?

The internet creates a perfect storm for impulse control: at the same time that it actively solicits impulsive communication and make satisfying those impulses incredibly easy, it makes taking back the results of those impulses incredibly difficult; it’s easy to hit “send” or “submit,” and quite hard to un-send and un-submit something.

Facebook asks, “What’s on your mind?” while Twitter wants to know “What’s happening?” They owe their existence to people’s desire to share their thoughts, videos, and photographs – and they need to be constantly fed to survive and grow and make money. And blogs (including ours) want to engage readers and build community and so ask for comments. The internet is set up to encourage you to share whatever thought crosses your mind, and taking that thought from your cranium to the walls and screens of the digital world only takes a few clicks.

But just because you can share your thoughts on impulse doesn’t mean you should. Not only because you probably haven’t thought through the why behind wanting to share first, but because strong impulses are usually born from strong emotions: anger, depression, and grief, or from chemically-altered states (like being drunk). When you spout off and share personal feelings while emotional or trashed, you will likely come to regret it once those strong emotions fade or you sober up.

The best thing to do when you feel you’re dealing with an impulse to put something online that you might regret later, is just to sit on it. The internet creates a false sense of immediacy, giving you an overwhelming feeling that you have to respond now. But what you’ll find is that something that felt super urgent and mega important to say in the moment, will seem totally pointless when you wake up the next morning.

One method I use to thwart impulsive responses is to imagine myself living before the internet. If I feel a burning urge to tell the author of an article what a chucklehead he is, I think of reading a magazine in the 80s, and how I would have had no outlet to express my opinion about it besides writing up a letter to the editor or talking to my wife or close friends about it. Or if something annoys me and I want to rant about it on Facebook, I think of a time before Facebook when I would have had no choice but to keep my rant to myself. It makes me realize that just as sharing whatever crosses your mind wasn’t necessary then, it’s not necessary now. The fine-folks of the 80s, while they made some questionable fashion-choices, weren’t any less happy than we are now that we’re able to shout what we’re feeling and thinking to everyone 24/7.

3. How controversial do you want to be?

The younger generation  (including those my age) was raised with a lot of rhetoric about how special and unique they are, how important it is to be “authentic,” and that it’s good to be “transparent.” This can lead folks to throw caution to wind about what they share online because, “I’m just trying to be me! And if other people don’t like it, they can bite me!”

But just because you can now display your opinions and personality to a greater number of people than ever before, doesn’t mean you should, or that the more you share, the more authentic you are. Going back to my suggestion of thinking about life before the internet, people used to only be able to share their quirks with a close circle of family and friends, and they weren’t any less themselves than we are (actually they were probably more themselves since they didn’t get instant feedback on all of their quirks).

Examining the meaning of authenticity isn’t within the purview of this post (although it will be a future series), but suffice it to say for now that the ideal for many of the great men of the past was not transparency, but sprezzatura – only revealing themselves to others slowly as a relationship of trust developed. You may want to “be yourself” by trumpeting your religious, social, and political beliefs online every chance you get, but if those meme’s you keep flooding Facebook with is the only thing new acquaintances know about you, they may decide they don’t want to get to know you before they even do — they’ll miss the complexity of your character that would have shown through over time…that you’re both a liberal and a rabid gun owner, or a fervent Christian and a scientist, or a zealous vegetarian and a Marine.

The three questions above can go a long way to helping you judiciously choose what and what not to post online. A final question to consider is what the general public might think of the content if for some reason what you post went viral or you were suddenly thrust into national prominence. Would it embarrass your family? What impression would a stranger have of it? You and your friends might think it’s funny, but would others find it offensive? You never know who’s going to see your post, what’s going to be dug up on you later, and who might be looking at your phone.

How to Manage Your Online Reputation

Managing your online reputation involves both deleting content you don’t want out there and creating content you do. Follow the steps below that Ivester and others have suggested, and complete each step right after you read it. This is the kind of thing that’s easy to put off indefinitely. Do it now.

1. Google yourself.

Before you can know what actions to take to manage your online reputation, you need to know what’s already out there. To do this, first deactivate Google’s customized search – when you typically do a Google search, the results Google brings up are based on things like your location, what you’ve clicked on before, and things your friends like. But you want to see what would come up if someone else searched for you. Here’s how to take off the customized search feature.

If you have a common name like “Rob Smith,” then search for your name with a qualifier like, “Rob Smith St. Louis,” or “Rob Smith Tulane University.”

After you look at Google’s results for you, check out other search engines like Bing and Yahoo as well.

When you look at the results that come up for your name, try to imagine what conclusions someone might reach about you if they had no other context for that content, and knew nothing else about you.

2. Try to remove content that you don’t want showing up in search results anymore.

After you do a search for yourself, it’s time to try to delete things that showed up that you’d rather not have out there anymore. Maybe you signed up for an internet forum with your real name. Maybe you left a comment on a blog post under your real name. Maybe you wrote a review or a blog post that you now feel is too controversial. Some of these things you can delete yourself.

If you can’t delete something yourself, like a blog post comment on another person’s blog, then try to contact the owner of the site to see if they will remove it for you. They may or may not, but the nicer you are about it, the greater the chance of them helping you, so make your request as civil and appreciative as possible.

If you can’t find the contact information for the site owner, try the site WHOis. Website registrars are required to publish the contact information for the person who registered the domain. Oftentimes when you look up a site on WHOis, you’ll find that the owner has decided to keep their direct contact information private and have instead given a proxy email address. Either way, your email will end up in the same place.

Understand that even if you’re successful at removing the offending content from a site, it may take a few days or even weeks before it’s reflected in search engine results. Also, understand that the offending item really hasn’t “gone away.” There’s a chance that it has been archived on the WayBack Machine. Remember, what’s put on the internet stays on the internet forever.

Moving forward, be extremely judicious when using your real name online.

3. Proactively create a positive first impression online.

Your best bet in managing your online reputation is proactively creating positive content about yourself that pushes the bad stuff off of the first few pages of search engines. Set up accounts with large social networking sites that typically rank high on Google and other search engines. Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google+ profiles are often on the first page when you look up someone’s name. Set up accounts with them and post stuff that you’d be proud to have your name associated with.

The best thing you can do to ensure positive stuff associated with your name is at the top of search results is to start a blog and update it regularly. If you can, try to secure a domain name with your given name for your blog. What should you write about on your blog? You can publish your resume (redacting phone numbers and addresses, of course), write posts sharing insights in an expertise you might have, or use it to create a portfolio of your work if you’re a freelancer. Whatever it is, make sure it’s stuff you want associated with your name.

Cross-link your blog and all your social networking profiles together: put your link to Facebook and Twitter on your blog, a link to your LinkedIn profile and blog on your Facebook account, and so on.

Even if you don’t plan on using Twitter or Google+ or even putting anything on your blog, it doesn’t hurt to have your name registered with those accounts and domain. You don’t want some Joe Schmo mucking up your good name with a bunch of crazy online antics.

4. Adjust privacy settings on Facebook and clean up your Facebook Profile.

To ensure that potential employers or love interests only see the best of you when they look you up on Facebook, make the following adjustments:

First, take a look at how your profile page looks to the public. If you see any information visible that you don’t want strangers to see, make a note of it.

To change what’s visible on your profile page, click “About.”

Click “Edit” on the next page.  On each segment select “Friends” if you don’t want anybody who’s not your FB friend to see a particular piece of information. For networking reasons, I’ve left my job and school information visible to the public.

Visit the Facebook Privacy Settings page and adjust all your privacy settings so only your friends can see photos and status updates you make.

On the privacy settings page, update what your friends can share about you under “Timeline and Tagging.” Enable the ability to review and approve posts or photos that you are tagged in before they’re published on your Timeline. You can also disable Facebook’s tag suggestion when your friends upload photos that look like you. You don’t want your name tagged in an unflattering photo or post.

While you’re on the privacy settings page, limit who can see posts from the past. Even if you used to post everything publicly, this will retroactively make those posts private.

Review the photos that you’re tagged in and untag yourself from any unflattering photos. While you’re at it, you might ask your friend to remove the photo if it’s something you don’t want out there. Even if you’re not tagged in the pic, it could come back to haunt you.

Leave groups and unlike pages that may be seen as controversial…or just dumb. At least set the privacy settings on them so only your FB friends can see the pages you like. Here’s how.

5. Be more conscious of what you share and whom you share it with on Facebook.

Ask the three questions we covered above before posting something on Facebook. That will save you a lot of grief.

Also, take into account if what you’re about to share is appropriate and relevant to ALL your Facebook friends. You don’t need to share your weekend plans with your old boss and former professors. In real life, you adjust what you talk about depending on your company — do the same on Facebook. Create lists on Facebook for close family/friends, acquaintances, professional colleagues, people that are the same religion as you, people you enjoy talking politics with, etc. Before posting something, ask yourself if this is something all your friends would be interested in or is better for a specific list of your friends. And even if you’re only posting for a list of close friends, still keep in mind what others would think if that status or photo got shared with people outside the list. It could happen.

6. Create strong passwords for your accounts.

If the recent story of tech writer Mat Honan’s online life being completely demolished by hackers doesn’t motivate you to strengthen your online security, then I don’t know what will. Create strong passwords for all your accounts and change them every six months. A strong password is at least 8 characters long and includes at least one special character (&!#) and both upper and lower case letters. Your passwords shouldn’t be the same for all your accounts. To manage all your passwords, use an app like LastPass.

To reduce the chance of getting hacked, enable two step authentication. Here’s how to do it on Google (if you use Gmail) and Facebook.

7. Use passwords on your laptop and mobile devices. 

An unattended laptop or mobile device provides a devilish opportunity for friends or random strangers to mess with your online life. I know several people who had to do a lot of scrambling to recover from an offensive tweet sent from an unattended iPhone by a mischievous friend. Avoid that. Enable password protection on all your mobile devices.

8. Set up a Google Alert for your name. 

Keep your finger on the pulse of what’s said about you on the web by setting up a Google Alert for yor name.  Just enter your name as a search query and Google Alert will email you a digest once a week (or daily if you want) of all the new content that’s hit the web with your name in it.

Conclusion

The internet is an amazing educational, social, and networking tool — you just need to use it wisely. Using it too little can be just as damaging to your personal and professional life as using it too much. Be a “conscious content creator” and use sound wisdom and judgement in deciding where you personally want to draw the line between your public and private life.

Any other tips on managing your online reputation? Share them with us in the comments (only after asking yourself why you’re commenting and making sure it’s the right time, of course)!

 

{ 39 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Geoffrey Kidd August 9, 2012 at 6:02 pm

Managing one’s online reputation is a very serious business. I haven’t forgotten someone at a party I attended discussing how he evaluated resumes submitted for a very prestigious internship at his law firm. He mentioned one applicant he looked up on Facebook and discovered a posting where she said “I’ve finished my exams. I’m going to spend a couple of weeks celebrating and getting drunk.” The posting MIGHT have been intended as a joke, but, as the gentleman noted, it might not, and why bother with this applicant when there were others who hadn’t put anything so stupid up in public for all to see.

2 Chris Butterworth August 9, 2012 at 6:26 pm

Forget “heading out on your own” – this is good advice for anyone.

I’d also recommend an annual “check-up” – mark your calendar so that at least once a year you take the time to do some of these tasks: google/yahoo your name, check/adjust your facebook & google plus settings, update any weak passwords, etc..

You don’t know who or when somebody will google you, and what the consequences might be. Job promotion? Bank loan? Your kids’ school admission office? Who knows – better to actively manage your online reputation..

3 Henry August 9, 2012 at 8:09 pm

This has got to be one of the most eye opening post I’ve read in a while. Not only it’s “important”, but it’s near life saving. Thank you for it.

4 Daniel August 9, 2012 at 8:25 pm

This is a very informative article. I recently deleted my Facebook account without any regret, but now I’m getting second thoughts. . .
Will future employers be wary of a candidate that is largely incognito on the internet, without any social networking connection? That is, will future employers be suspicious of me NOT having a Facebook account?
Other than that, I see no need for social networking, I find it largely narcissistic. I don’t need to post what I’m thinking, I don’t need to post pictures of myself, etc. Of the 300+ FB “friends” I had, I would only keep in touch with a handful of them.
What does AoM’s readers think? Do we really need FB accounts?

5 Jared Goldman August 9, 2012 at 9:04 pm

Really enjoying the series. I am about to begin my first semester at Law School and wondering if you might share some effective study habits?
Cheers!
- Jared

6 Brett McKay August 9, 2012 at 9:35 pm

@Jared-

I did a big study tips post last year. You might find it helpful:

http://artofmanliness.com/2012/01/03/ace-your-exams-study-tactics-of-the-successful-gentleman-scholar/

7 Bill August 9, 2012 at 9:39 pm

A good thing to remember is that when you push “send” on any type of electronic message you have lost TOTAL CONTROL of that message whatever it may be. There are no “do overs” or “whoops”.

8 Derek August 9, 2012 at 10:21 pm

The advice here is excellent, but I’m honestly concerned about the ethics of businesses hiring based on internet posts. Take the graphic chart, I understand concerns such as “poor communication skills online,” but how can employers judge “concerns about lifestyle” or “membership in groups” as a criteria for hiring. I mean, I understand the idea, but where does it end? I’m an introvert; I’m two totally different people around professionals and around friends. And frankly, I shouldn’t have to be my professional self online on a website intended for friends.

9 Austin August 9, 2012 at 10:29 pm

Consider this: What would Don Draper tweet?

10 David Puthoff August 10, 2012 at 12:41 am

@Daniel

I recently did the same with my Facebook with mostly the same thinking. This article made me consider that choice as well. But I don’t think it’s worth the trade-off. I think of all the time and temptation involved with getting back into Facebook and that’s just not worth establishing a presence there again. If an employer googles me, I’d much rather they found my LinkedIn page.

So instead, I went and updated that :)

11 Kentuckian August 10, 2012 at 3:07 am

I Google myself about once a month, just to see what comes up. Since I have a fairly common name – and I don’t use my full name when posting to a couple of online fora I belong to – 90%-95% of what’s out there is not me (there’s a doctor, a lawyer, an author, a radio personality, and – unfortunately for me – more than a few criminals). Even locally there are 5 other men with my name/initials – three close to my age – that have a variety of backgrounds. I wonder if that’s one reason it’s been difficult for me to get interviews for IS/IT jobs I’ve applied to online. The HR folks make assumptions based just on what turns up from a simple Google search.

I’m not into social media (“MyTwitFace” and the like). Like Daniel, it doesn’t interest me in the least. The folks I want to keep in touch with are, for the most part, not online either.

12 Laura White August 10, 2012 at 6:55 am

This article is something I would like to share with my students this year. It’s a message we need to be reminded of frequently.

13 Patrick August 10, 2012 at 7:08 am

Right on, Brett. It’s ridiculous the things people will post online, including people who are already in positions of authority and importance.

14 Sean August 10, 2012 at 7:12 am

I would like to add a word of warning about facebook that I think was missed:

Anything that happens on facebook is forever stored. the friends you have, the friends you have unfriended.

if there is a photo you were once tagged and you un-tagged yourself and the photo was even deleted, it is still attached to your account.

so if the police subpoena facebook for your account, all this information is included, So I would be wary of who you add as friends on facebook too, just as the real world

15 Benjamin August 10, 2012 at 8:47 am

A very informative, and practical post indeed. Gone are the days where people live private lives. I must be in that “dying breed” classification because I don’t subscribe to Facebook, Twitter, or MySpace. I tried Facebook years ago, only to to delete my account because I found better things to do with my time. Any reference to me online today will likely be one related to my business and/or the industry I work in.
-Benjamin in Atlanta, GA

16 Joseph R August 10, 2012 at 8:54 am

Man, I just looked up my name and thankfully there really wasn’t anything other than my linkedin, google+, and facebook pages. I was a bit surprised to look up an old email that I used to use (Not my professional email) and see how much stuff is still out there. Old blog posts, old forums I used to frequent. Glad to know that any prospective employers will only see good things about me.

Somewhat related to the law school student who had the bad facebook post – I remember in college there were underage students who would post those ‘cool’ pictures of themselves with beer…in front of there room numbers. Pretty epic failure.

Thanks for the article.

17 Ben August 10, 2012 at 9:05 am

Another helpful tool that you should use is a website called http://www.Pipl.com. It’s a free version of spokeo.com. Go check it out and you will see what it does. Amazing. I’ve helped so many clients clean up their online presence using this and many other tools.

18 David August 10, 2012 at 10:16 am

The story of Mr. Honan’s hacking had me immediately looking to make sure that I have not chained my accounts too much. I immediately checked the box on my twitter account to require more than a username to initiate a password reset and changed the email associated with my account so that it is not the same as my gmail login – although the emails still go to the same place so I get the messages but hackers couldn’t access the account.

This is good stuff for people to think about.

19 J.A. August 10, 2012 at 11:08 am

It’s not so much what I would post on Facebook that concerns me, it’s what other might post about me and how little I can affect that.

I’ve known some serious morons in my life and even years later I’m worried that they might post about something really dumb I did or said (things that still embarrass me) back then. It might be just me being paranoid and other people don’t even remember any of that stuff anymore, but still, I don’t wouldn’t want to be forced to explain something from my past to my current friends.

20 Henrik August 10, 2012 at 12:43 pm

Great writeup – and this is something that I’ve been thinking about for quite some time, and I keep asking myself if this post or this tweet will look good from a potential employers point of view.

What would you recommend when it comes to forum posts? I have about 8000 posts amassed throughout the years on a forum — and some of them were written as a 15-16 year old. Needless to say, I’ve changed in the past 6 years.
How would one go about deleting the older posts, while still keeping the account and the newer posts?
Same goes for my now unused Twitter account – I’m sure there are some skeletons around, but I don’t want to delete my entire profile either.

Any advice?

21 Jason Harvey August 10, 2012 at 2:28 pm

Surprised you received any comments for this post!

But in all seriousness this is an important topic for everyone to be mindful of.

I know some people who use online alias or pen name to help protect themselves from any any type of indiscretions or misunderstandings.

22 Ekajra August 10, 2012 at 5:22 pm

I find that another habit that helps with deciding if a comment is worth posting is to actually write well.

If you actually take the time to type a coherent message, you might discover by the end that you don’t actually care abut what you were going to say.

Happens quite frequently to me. I’ll be typing a comment, and then as soon as I’m done I say to myself, “And now I have lost all interest.” and just move on.

23 Glen August 10, 2012 at 8:05 pm

So I deleted my facebook months ago. I was tired of the constant drama and negativity that repeatedly posted itself on my news feed. Also I felt my three primary uses was for creeping, bragging indirectly and socializing. Two of which were a complete waste of my time. Now I could see that not using your facebook may negatively impact your reputation but what about not even having one?

24 Jules August 11, 2012 at 1:22 am

A great article which validates my choice to never have anything to do with facebook! Despite tremendous peer pressure to join the conga line of lemmings posting the dreary minutiae of their every bowel movement – I have resisted. Facebook? not for me thanks.

25 Rick August 11, 2012 at 3:54 am

That’s a little cowardly for the Art of Manliness. I mean who cares what other people post or think. And if an employer sees it you don’t need that job. Facebook has privacy settings to block unwanted requested. So people can take, leave, unfriend me it’s better than thinking so one is your friend until they find out your true feelings about a subject. The “hollow men” of Tennyson talked about men as deep as a photograph or a facebook profile. But that’s my opinion!

26 Josh Knowles August 11, 2012 at 10:52 am

My mentor is the residence director of a men’s dorm at the local college. Facebook is for him a very important tool for screening the incoming guys. I’m always amazed at how much people allow the public to see.

I’ve been pretty careful about making sure all the stuff on my Facebook profile is set to “friends only” instead of public.

However, after reading this article, I decided to Google my name, just for kicks to see what would come up. Almost all the links on the first page were for a guy named Josh Knowles who does full metal jousting on the History Channel . I guess it could be a lot worse.

Thanks for this series, I wish I’d had something like this when I was getting ready to leave home.

27 Brett McKay August 11, 2012 at 2:05 pm

Cowardly, Rick? I assuredly disagree. What we are advocating for here is simply keeping more of yourself private than public and concealing from others your private life. This has been the same advice given for centuries by the likes of Machiavelli, Baltasar Gracián, and Baldassare Castiglione to men who wanted to be powerful and influential. The less people know about you, the more you can insinuate yourself into any situation and the more power you can have. Changing yourself to please others can be cowardly, but again, that’s no what we are advocating. We are advocating for is keeping more of your true self from the public, so that YOU control what other people know about you.

28 Rick August 12, 2012 at 12:08 pm

It’s not necessarily bad to be like fort knox about certain aspects of your life. But one thing about facebook is you can meet people who are into what you’re into. If some guy is into lets say facepainting. I know I don’t want to associate with a facepainter. It saves me time then realize later this guy is a crazy facepainter. hehe… But if he has Art of Manliness as one of his LIKES I might want to know this person!

29 Eric Matthews August 15, 2012 at 7:14 am

In a generation this will stop being an issue.

When the people hiring are the grown up kids of today, all with their own follies online for all to see, I hope that a higher tolerance of action and thought will be present in all.
If anything, encouraging the hiding of actions online will push this golden age of acceptance further into the future.

30 Jacques August 20, 2012 at 12:21 am

Brett, I have a question. I’m currently a student in physics, I plan on becoming a professor and working with companies (possibly making my own) in the future. I also really like making music. I don’t really stick to one genre of music and one of the genres I like making music of is rap/hip-hop. My lyrical content is very philosophical (as in, I rap/sing about things similar to what even AOM talks about). I don’t use much profanity, unless I think it’s necessary. Do you think I can still make some music in this genre without it affecting my future work? Thanks!

31 Brett McKay August 20, 2012 at 12:38 pm

@Jacques-

I haven’t sat in on any hiring decisions for physics professors, so I don’t know for sure and what that professional culture is like, but in general, I have found that potential employers really like it when you have outside interests, especially when they’re a little different than the average guy. It makes you memorable and seem well-rounded, and gives them a talking point, “We have a physics professor here that also raps about philosophy!” So I wouldn’t think it would be a problem. But I would pose the question to one of your physics professors, since he’s probably more tuned into the professional culture.

32 Jacques August 20, 2012 at 8:41 pm

Sounds great! I was just a little worried over the fact that rap is seen as something offensive sometimes. But unless I decide to actually be particularly controversial in a bad way, I wouldn’t think it would be a problem, like you said. Just making sure. I will ask my professors, though, to see what they think. Thanks for the response! I loved Manvotionals, by the way, I go back and read paragraphs I really liked from time to time. I’ll definitely be passing it to my child if I ever have one (boy or girl). :)

33 The Watcher August 22, 2012 at 7:54 am

When everything fails, you have to get the pro’s in. Especially when the info about you is false, an interview coming up or your business suffers. I used the guys from Reputation Planet. Not cheap, mind – but they got all of the stuff I didn’t want cleared up. Don’t think I would have my job today…

34 marilyn October 5, 2012 at 4:13 pm

Great advice, for everyone. Thanks for the timely reminders!

35 csthom October 14, 2012 at 1:37 pm

I’m always happy to see services add 2-step verification. As much as I know that using a random password would be more secure, I just don’t care for the idea that I have all of my passwords written down somewhere.

36 Chad Ian Lieberman October 15, 2012 at 4:25 pm

Reputation management does work. Although negative comments are pushed off the first page and still may be found on the second or third page. When I have a new client, before I charge them anything I will review the situation. I once had someone inquire about my services and the negative link they wanted to remove was from a major newspapers website. I told them it was most likely not going to be realistic to remove it from the first page and would not take the clients money.

A lot of times the negative reviews come from sites that allow people to give negative reviews to businesses with no merit. I’m not going to mention them by name, but there are tons of them. When I review a individuals or companies situation if I know it can be pushed off the first page we will proceed.

There is a trust factor when hiring a reputation management company. For example, when I’m hired I will need to create at least one or more email accounts for the client and create some new accounts on the net for the purpose of creating positive links in the place of the negative one. Any company that doesn’t ask for this, I would be suspect of. You have to create new accounts for the client to remove bad links.

Another strategy that has to be discussed before any work is done, is what kind of links would be acceptable to use to replace the bad links. In short, reputation management does work and is extremely valuable because potential customers will run if they see negative reviews, regardless if they are truthful or not.

37 MaryAnn November 1, 2012 at 7:42 pm

It’s amazing the amount of information, personal information, of ours that gets littered across the internet. Thanks for some good tips on how to deal with some of it.

38 Tyler G. December 13, 2012 at 8:03 am

These are great tips. My name is pretty unique, so any Google search for my name instantly brings me up.

I usually don’t worry about making things public or private. If I have something that only a few people should see, I just don’t post it on the internet, where something is bound to be leaked.

Another tip: Be sure to do these things for ALL of your accounts, not just your main ones. I use Facebook for just about everything, but the Google search brought up my Twitter profile more than anything else.

39 David March 1, 2013 at 9:17 am

As a 20 year old, this is something that is slowly being taught about in high school and in college it is reinforced even more due to the fact that with college the focus is on getting a career. Thankfully I’ve always been careful with my privacy settings and what I say and post. I admit I have posted somethings I don’t want to mention because of how stupid/embarrassing they are. Once I realized it (about 5-10 min after) I deleted it. Granted it was on Facebook so they may not be 100% gone due to their changing privacy settings. I’ve even Googled myself using many restrictions (David Cohen is a very common name). Furthermore I don’t have to worry about the classical (or is the internet old enough for those kinds of photos to be considered classical?) ‘look at me and how drunk I am’ due to a medical condition. I will share this article with my friends however. Thanks for writing this article because it addresses something not thought of as important.

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