Have you ever googled yourself? You might be surprised by what comes up.
Historians will tell you assumptions about cultures and events based off of what evidence is left behind, such as cave paintings. This is what history is,”the bodies of knowledge about the past produced by historians”. The same thing is likely to happen in the future, with historians making assumptions based off the evidence left behind by our society. But instead of rocks and paintings, we will leave behind a new kind of evidence- technology. What we do with this technology now and how we interact using this technology will have a major impact on not only our society today, but how our society is perceived tomorrow.
It’s not just our whole society that needs to be taken into consideration. Social media has boomed in recent years, and today colleges and employers check social media and your digital footprint when going through their hiring and accepting process. Your digital footprint “is the body of data that exists as a result of actions and communications online that can in some way be traced back to an individual.” Scholarship providers who responded to a survey sent by the National Scholarship Providers Association reports that a quarter of scholarship providers in 2011 used social media to check out applications. They most commonly look for behavior that could reflect badly on the scholarship provider, including underage drinking, illegal drug use, provocative pictures, racial slurs, as well as searching for verification of the information provided on the application.
Also, what you post online can also get you fired. Gilbert Gottfried, commonly known as the voice of the Aflac duck, made a joke at the expense of Japanese tsunami victims and found himself out of a job less than an hour after the joke was posted. Florida teacher Olivia Sprauer had her provocative modeling photos posted on Facebook and was asked to resign. Another teacher in Denver, Carly Mckinney had a questionable twitter in which she expressed her opinion about how much she liked to smoke weed as well as her opinion about her hot students. She was placed on administrative leave and eventually fired.
Unfortunately, organizations are unlikely to change their behavior regarding online presence. The change must be individual in which awareness and self consciousness is increased concerning the implications of online behavior. Important factors to consider when posting online are to stop comparing yourself to others, be authentic, and make sure that your online persona is aligned with your offline persona. If you wouldn’t say something or act a certain way in person, you shouldn’t do so online. Your time and effort should not be spent trying to create this perfect image of yourself that doesn’t align with reality. There are in fact, respectable organizations who have taken their time and posted tips to creating the perfect online profile. The very concept of this is deceiving and dishonest. These tips include avoiding mentioning God, to post pictures outdoors if you’re a gay man, not to post about karaoke, and to learn how to surf. All of this is done in order to get more potential dates, but on false pretenses and dissimulation of your true self. In following these tips and using this in order to craft and shape this online persona which is loosely connected to you, you lose grasp of yourself and your individuality online. Also, when who you are online isn’t truly who you are offline, meeting in person and that first date will be awkward for all of those involved.
What’s the solution to all of this? Google yourself.
Whatever comes up is what employers, colleges, your peers, and scholarship providers can see and the online information you find is what is used to build their perception of you, including your personality and character. The relationship between online and offline behavior is often a complex and confusing situation.The best advice that I have been personally given in relation to how you should behave online is to simply think before you post. In the same way that historians make judgments based off the evidence left behind by old civilizations, organizations and individuals look at the evidence you leave behind digitally. That intoxicated and provocative selfie from spring break may lead to the termination of your employment, or that tweet you posted about how you hate your boss or that Instagram post showing illegal substance use. Another option is to post as you wish but to take precautions with online privacy settings. Because today we live in a more digital world where social media is more prevalent at times than face to face interaction, it is imperative that awareness is brought to online behavior.