Google It

Ah the beginning of a new semester. Fresh new faces, a slew of new names to learn, and new classrooms full of new people to meet knowing that they’ve previously googled me.

As you know if you’ve done any reading of this blog, I keep and curate an extremely active digital presence. I also keep and curate a digital presence for several major professional organizations, and have helped even more begin their adventures into the digital world.

one of the more awesome shots that pops up in my google image search; me kicking butt at the Summer Sling this year

one of the more awesome shots that pops up in my google image search; me kicking butt at the Summer Sling this year

It’s not uncommon for me to meet people who are gun-shy about the internet. They think that curating an online persona entails revealing too much of their private lives, or somehow exposing themselves in a way they aren’t comfortable with.

The fact is this: in the digital era, you will have an internet presence. Depending upon the popularity of your name, that presence may or may not be immediately linked with you personally. Never doubt this, however: that presence can either harm or help you, and curating that presence is taking control of what happens when someone types your name into google.

Because, let’s face it, what do people do the minute an unfamiliar name crosses their desk? How to employers verify (or investigate) claims of expertise or previous employment? How does anyone know anything these days?

Taking your digital presence into your own hands is taking the power back from the system. By actively curating, you craft a presence that makes you more legitimate, more desirable, and more accessible.

In order to keep this presence clean and free of “unmentionable” (or at least unprofessional) personal information, the key is to create (and hold yourself accountable) to a set of personal protocol for social networking. Before I share anything on the internet, I take myself through a series of questions about the content. If the content doesn’t measure up to my protocol standards, I either find a way to share it that is protected by security measures (like facebook permissions groups, password walls, or private e-mails), or keep it to myself.

Here is my list of primary content questions that I make myself ask about anything before I post it to the internet:

             Would you be comfortable with someone reading this (tweet, status, blog, etc.) out loud at a job interview?

             Would you be comfortable with your students knowing these things?

             Would you be comfortable with this content being read aloud to your tenure review board?

 These are my “red flag” questions; i.e.: if the answer to any one of these questions is “no”, the content is not fit to be posted publicly. If the content is green-lit by these standards, I further ask myself:

             Are you currently of sound mind? (…i.e.: have you slept enough? Had your coffee yet today? Eaten recently? All of these are key factors that could influence good decision-making).

            Have you re-read this content to check for grammar, spelling, and proper attribution?

            Have you fact-checked this content with a reliable source?

These questions are “shelf it” questions; if I answer “no” to any of them, I can’t post the

Pro tip: google image will also pull from your youtube account; here's a still from some action vid of me cracking my bullwhip courtesy of this feature

Pro tip: google image will also pull from your youtube account; here’s a still from some action vid of me cracking my bullwhip courtesy of this feature

content until that answer turns into a “yes”. They won’t necessarily prevent me from posting something, but they certainly do some work to ensure the quality of my posts.

So as you begin to meet fresh faces this year, consider implementing your own set of standards for what the internet has to say about you. And, if you’re not already, consider putting your own two cents into the mix. I guarantee that, with some effort, the long run will be worth it.

The Internet and You

As a child of the computer age, I have been extremely fortunate in that many useful skills have come naturally to me.  Among these are social media skills; twitter, blogging, facebook utilization, keeping connected with my fellow man via technology and using these connections to expand my network in person.

But I know that I’m one of the lucky ones.  I actively work with (and have in the past worked with) both organizations (large and small) and individuals who don’t understand how to properly harness and utilize the full functionality of these tools.  Because of my experience, I’ve had the opportunity to explain these things to these powers/people and to demonstrate, through example, how social media can work in their favor.

You do this long enough and you begin to see some trends.  This combined with some recent incidents in my personal life have spurred me to action.  It’s come to my attention that perhaps the internet should come with a how-to guide.  Things which seem like common understanding are not always all that common.

Posting things on the internet can be like letting someone read your work over your shoulder; be careful what's on your screen.

Posting things on the internet can be like letting someone read your work over your shoulder; be careful what’s on your screen.

So I’ve decided to pen this series on how to better manage your social media and general internet presence.

Let’s start with the disclaimer and the most basic rule of the internet: the internet is a public forum.  No matter how private you think something may be, posting it on the internet in any form is akin to waving it from atop a billboard in Times Square.  Once it’s out there, consider it permanent.  Unless you have a very thorough understanding of the privacy options available to you (and the methods utilized by search engines when crawling for content), you really can’t know what might or might not make it back to what eyes.  Even if you can’t think of current personal stakes, consider this: often times, a google search is part of a job interview.  Do you really want to jeopardize your career for the sake of a series of questionable photographs which seemed so cool and soooo important for your friends to see in one blissfully irreverent moment?  Before you post: think.

Here are some things that it is never under any circumstances appropriate to post: complaints about your boss/co-workers (talk about an HR nightmare), information about yourself or your personal life that you wouldn’t be comfortable sharing in a roomful of strangers (some of whom may, at some point, be interviewing you for a job), passive-aggressive notes to people actually involved in your life (particularly: significant others, room-mates, coworkers, bosses), serious threats (I’ve certainly been known to twitter-bash starbux line-cutter guy, but since tone doesn’t convey itself well over the internet, you need to be careful about this; stick to innocuous things and life situations relatable to a general audience).

My basic rule is this: if I wouldn’t be comfortable with something being brought up at a job interview, it doesn’t go on the internet.

In the interest of keeping my posts here digestible, I’m going to break things down a bit.  Now that I’ve outlined the stakes of the issue, stay tuned for posts on the various social networking platforms and how they can be used, developing an internet persona, and further discussion of the internet and you.