In the early days of social media, social networks were walled-in gardens where you could connect with a select group of friends, and share your thoughts, links, videos and photos. You had full control over who could view these things, so you could maintain a certain level of privacy. Let's face it, this is no longer true! The entire world has access to your online life. If you want something to be secret, you might as well keep it off of your computer!
In today's job market, this is especially important. Make no mistake, prospective employers will peruse your online footprint if they are considering you for a job. In fact, your current employer may be watching you online as well. Given the recent changes many of the networks have made, particularly Facebook, your privacy controls may not keep you as safe as you think.
Here are some steps I would recommend:
- Review your privacy settings - as I said, many of the networks have recently made major changes. However, you should also recognize that the garden wall is now very short, and even the things you think are safe may find their way over that wall.
- Stay away from "Hot Topics" - It might be a good time to start following the old saying: "Never discuss religion and politics." If your online rhetoric is not particularly civil when it comes to those who disagree with you, a potential employer will most likely pass.
- Keep your updates free of complaints - I see quite a few people complaining about their current job or boss, and even about their friends. The thinly-veiled complaint, where you make the complaint but don't name names, is really not much better. It all serves to paint you as a "complainer." A potential employer will be turned off by this, and you could even lose your current job if you're not careful!
- Remove the incriminating pictures - You know the ones I mean: At the party, holding a beer, with a lampshade on your head. I would suggest you delete them immediately. If your friends have posted them, ask them to delete them. If they won't, remove any tags identifying you.
- Above all, think before you type - The internet has given us a false sense of anonymity, where we feel like we can say anything without consequences. While this might have been true a few years ago, it is no longer the case. If you wouldn't say it in person, you probably shouldn't post it either.
In my opinion, there is no longer such a thing as privacy when it comes to life online. Assume that everything you say and do will be in the public record forever!