Be Careful What You Publish…Someone Might Read It!

Admit it: you love Facebook. And MySpace. Maybe you have a blog, or you comment on one. Blogs and social networking sites are a great way to keep in touch with friends and family, post pictures and pontificate on your latest drama.
But who ELSE is keeping track of your online persona?
Well, for one, your future employer. By now you’ve probably heard that many HR people head straight to Facebook or MySpace after that big interview you thought you nailed. Maybe you never got around to removing “getting wasted” from your interests, or de-tagging that picture of you with a cigarette in one had and a drink in the other. Things like these are warning signs to future bosses–if they think you spend most of your time drinking and smoking, they’re going to wonder whether or not it will affect your job performance.
What about a work blog? My friend, lets call her…Jonie, kept a blog while working as an assistant for a crazy financial guy. It was juicy and hilarious and a great read and…she got caught. She didn’t get fired, but she pretty much had to resign soon after. She never used her own name on the blog, nor did she use her boss’s name or the company’s information. But somehow her boss got a hold of the link, and he knew right away who it was about. Busted, big time.
What about your friends, enemies, frenemies, ex-boyfriends, etc? I just recently remembered that I still have the user name and password to the secret Live Journal of a now ex-friend. Is she gossiping about the demise of our friendship? Let’s hope not…because I could read all about it if I chose to! Even this blog got yours truly in trouble recently for dishing about some personal stuff–it doesn’t matter HOW they find the post, only that they found it in the first place. What’s read can’t be unread, loves!
The worst, as far as I’m concerned, is your PARENTS. I had a very private blog that I only told a few friends about, where I kept accounts of all my college goings-on. Well, stupid me updated it once while I was home for vacation, leaving the link in the “recently browsed” list. Guess who found out about my nefarious behavior, including showing up to an internship incredibly hung over? Yeah, that would be my parents. Whoops.
So what can you do to prevent that awkward “I saw what you wrote about me” or “I just don’t think you’re the right employee for us” moment? Here’s a quick plan of action:
1. Have a look at your Facebook and MySpace accounts. Is there anything there you wouldn’t want your teacher/parents/boss to see? Consider taking it down.
2. Privacy settings are your friend! MySpace lets you set your profile to private, Facebook has about a million different settings–you can make your photos and your wall available only to friends or certain networks, for example, or remove yourself from being searchable at all. Keep in mind that now anyone can join big city networks like New York, NY–so if you belong to one of these, its a good idea to restrict access to friends-only.
3. Nothing you publish on the web is really private. A locked diary stashed under your bed? That’s private. A blog that’s password protected or published anonymously? Not private. If someone besides you knows the password, imagine a worst-case scenario–what if the password were leaked, and someone else saw what you wrote? Would all hell break lose? Consider taking it down.
4. Give yourself a quick Google. After searching my full name (in quotes), I found an old Bebo page I created over a year ago and forgot about, a piece of my writing which was published in an online journal, an article from a school newspaper in which I was quoted, and another online profile for a “what I’ve been reading”type of website. Pretty innocuous results, but who knows what you might dredge up about yourself?
5. When in doubt, delete delete delete! I recently decided to get rid of my MySpace and Friendster accounts, and just stick to Facebook. The less opportunities people have to find out more info about you, the better.
Finally, remember when your mom used to “if you don’t have anything nice to say about someone, don’t say it at all?” Well, we all know that’s crap (who doesn’t love some good gossip?), but you may want to take Mama Sarah’s revised saying to heart: “If you wouldn’t say it to someone’s face, don’t publish it on the internet”.

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