The Internet is an incredibly powerful tool that has revolutionized the world we live in, providing us with instant access to virtually every bit of information imaginable and connecting us with people across the globe. Naturally, it has created an unprecedented medium for all kinds of social media. By the same token, however, it has also created an unprecedented need to be aware of Internet security and social media privacy—an awareness that I think is often overlooked by college students.
Our generation will be the first generation to enter the workforce with an extensive history of our youth permanently archived on the web. Between Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, it can be difficult to maintain a professional image on the web that you wouldn’t mind a future employer taking a look at. I think it’s safe to say that most of us have had self-incriminating information published on the web at one point or another (red cups, for example). It may seem trivial to us, and a few pictures of you being social may not be the end of your professional career, but you never know when someone might dig it up and use it against you.
Here are a few tips on how to protect your online image without having to delete all of your social media accounts.
- Think before you post anything. This may sound obvious, but before you post anything, always ask yourself if you would be comfortable with everyone seeing it, not just the people you want to see it. We need to understand that the Internet is a public place—a public place with a permanent memory. If you wouldn’t say it in public, don’t say it on the Internet.
- Adjust your privacy settings. Most social networks have privacy settings that allow you to control who can see what on your profile. For example, on Facebook I’ve changed my settings to prevent tagged photos of myself from appearing on my wall unless I’ve approved them first. I also changed my settings to allow only my friends to see the information on my wall. The easiest way to see who can see what on your wall is to go to Privacy Settings>Timeline and Tagging and then clicking “View as” next to “Review what other people see on your timeline.” This allows you to view your profile from the eyes of a specific person (one of your friends) or of the public. If you haven’t changed the default settings, your profile and all of the information on it is probably very public. Here’s a thorough, always up-to-date guide that will walk you through all the settings that allow you to keep your Facebook information private.
- Make a LinkedIn Profile and keep it up-to-date. I’m sure you’ve all heard of LinkedIn by now, but not everyone has one yet and it’s becoming an increasingly important social network within the professional world. If you haven’t already made a profile, stop reading this article and do it now. If you do have one, make sure it is up-to-date. LinkedIn is essentially an online resume (which you should also be keeping up-to-date) that can be viewed by employers and allows you to stay connected to your professional network. Here are a few tips for making your LinkedIn profile stand out.
Social media can be a great resource that provides us with more opportunities than ever before; don’t let it be the reason why you lose an opportunity.