As recent news has taught us, once you put something online, it’s not going away — and it can seriously damage your reputation. We can go back and forth all day about why someone like Anthony Wiener would put, ahem, that online — but the truth is he’s not the only one risking his career through twitter. As the world gets increasingly tech-based, an individual’s online identity and online reputation is almost as precious as one’s real-world identity. There’s no longer a disconnect between who you are online and who you are in real life (or “IRL,” as the kids say).
On the lighter side, there are a whole bunch of snarky websites out there just waiting to catch your Facebook mistakes. But on the more dangerous side, it’s possible to tweet your way out of a job. At the same time, it’s impossible to avoid having an online identity. So how do you find the happy medium?
My first line of defense is having a super common name that makes me tough to Google (side note: what a phrase, right?). But after that, it’s all about realizing that no amount of “privacy settings” really makes anything on the internet “private.” I learned this through trial-and-error — after all, Facebook came about while I was in college.
It’s not so much that I have dark secrets as a history of weird haircuts and odd fashion choices that are always just a few clicks away.
So now, the answer for me is to protect my reputation online as I would IRL. In neither universe am I above making a dumb joke at my own expense, but I’m also not going to ruin what I’ve worked so hard for: a reputation as an educated, employed, responsible young adult who finally found a haircut that more or less suits her.