“She Tweeted WHAT?” Why You Should Give a Damn About Online Privacy

It’s the age of the Internet. Things are constantly changing, and they’re changing fast. When our parents were applying for their first jobs, it was either impossible or unlikely that the interviewer would be typing their names into Google to see what kind of results showed up. These days, we’re  living and breathing on the Internet—having an online presence is basically a requirement for most employers, especially if you’re landing a creative job. Whether it’s a LinkedIn profile or a Facebook page, we’re expected to be online.

As a Communications major, I’m taught to do just that: communicate. One of my classes was dedicated specifically to crafting an online voice so that when we have a career outside of school, we can advertise and market for various companies. Through this class, I realized that knowing how to use social media is becoming increasingly important to the success of most organizations.

How are you crafting your message? Why are you crafting your message? These questions should be going through your mind before sending something out into the wild world of cyberspace. Throughout the first two years of my program, I’ve learned just how important it is to be aware of what you say and how you say it. I’d say it’s even more important in the digital world, since posting something online stays online for everyone and anyone to see.

Not convinced yet? Research done by a company called ExecuNet concluded that 77% of hiring employers would type your name into a search engine to make a final decision about hiring you or not. You know that Facebook photo of you passed out drunk on the bathroom floor? You should probably have it removed.

Social media sites have become an employment assessment tool, so you’ll want to make sure your online presence is clean. Here’s what you can do to make sure everything’s in check.

1. Keep Most Profiles Private

This is something that you should seriously consider. By having a private social media account, only people you verify can view your information. A good tip is to keep your personal and professional personas separate—this applies to sites like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and so on. Create a personal account to interact with your friends and a professional one for marketing and networking.

You should perfect your professional social media accounts to make a great impression on future employers. More than 50% of employers who are hiring want to see if you would fit well into the company, so your social media accounts should be an accurate and true representation of who you are and what you’re aspiring to do. Keeping your personal side more private will ensure that people won’t view what you don’t want them to see.

2. Untag Yourself From Inappropriate Photos

This is really, really, really, important. A lot of people aren’t well-informed about online privacy settings; you might think that nobody can view the photo that Nancy just tagged you in because you don’t have any mutual friends on Facebook, but chances are, it’ll get to other people. If you’re using social media, it’s your responsibility to be aware of what sort of photos people are posting of you and tagging you in.

3. Keep Inappropriate Comments to Yourself

Sadly, this is a growing problem. Penning an unoffending Facebook rant on a topic you’re passionate about is fine, but throwing a tantrum about a customer or dissing your coworkers on Twitter is very inappropriate and could land you in trouble. You have the right to maintain your opinions, but if your comments are antagonistic or even bigoted, it won’t look good on you (especially the latter scenario). If your bosses saw that kind of thing, they would likely write you off in a heartbeat.

If what you’re dealing with is a real and serious issue, sort it out in the real world because doing it online is only going to hurt you. It’s true that social media can be a personal diary of sorts, but tons of people are going to be reading what you’re complaining or raging on about. Would you throw a tantrum in the middle of your boss’ office? Then don’t post one online.

4. Google your Own Name

Doing something like searching your own name online could give you a real wake up call. I remember searching my own name on Google and being shocked at my findings. I had zero idea that (literally) anyone could view all of my Instagram photos. Even more disturbingly, it turns out my privacy settings weren’t in place like I’d thought; someone who wasn’t my friend on Facebook could still view all of my profile photos.

Googling your name will give you a good idea of what sort of privacy settings you may need to fix. Be aware of what people can find out about you so that you can correct it and not be surprised when an interviewer interrogates you on some questionable material you wrote a few months back.

5. Think Before you Post

Easy, right? Wrong. Many people fail to consider what they’re putting on the Internet. Justine Sacco, A PR executive, was fired from her job due to an insensitive tweet. If you’re about to post something and you think it might offend someone, think twice before hitting that “post” button.  A staggering 65% of employers are turned off from a potential candidate if they see that they swear or use bad language online.

Now that you’ve got a good idea of how social media can either make or break your professional life, it’s time to put your knowledge into action. If you’re on the hunt for a job, ditch those curse-ridden Tweets and hide those photos of you in weird, suggestive positions—you’ll be glad you did when your would-be boss decides to Google your name.

Know of any bad social media blunders? Horror stories, perhaps? We kinda hope not, but we’re dying of curiosity. Let us know in the comments below.

*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Student Life Network or their partners.
Marina Khonaisser

Marina Khonaisser

Marina Khonaisser is an emerging communication professional with a passion for writing and traveling.