You've heard the old adage that once you post information on the Web, it stays there (and searchable) forever. What you do today can greatly impact what you're able to do tomorrow.
This section of the playbook aims to outline the potential ramifications of unprofessional behavior on the Web. Aimed primarily at students, this playbook provides information on how to act responsibly on the Web, especially on social networking sites.
Social networking sites can be simply defined as Web sites that easily connect people with others. These sites exploit the traditional network of contacts by making your friend's friends visible to you ("Social Network," 2011).
Some sites focus specifically on professional networking, others are simply for personal use. Most, however, offer users the ability to cultivate both. Web sites such as Facebook blur the lines between professional and personal. Because of that you have to be careful with what you post and who can view it.
Watch this video from CommonCraft on social networking.
Information that can sometimes be found on a social networking site:
Should everyone be able to view this information?
So who is looking at the information you post online? Everyone potentially.
Yes, that even includes employers who feel they are entitled to search for personal information about an applicant on the Web. They are looking at how you represent yourself. This representation or reputation can be a clue as to how you might represent the company (Vicknair, Elkersh, Yancey, & Budden, 2010). In some cases, this can impact whether or not you are hired.
And employers are not the only ones. Even schools and colleges are looking at your Facebook page, and the information they find there is determining whether or not you get in ("Too Much Information")!
Third party companies are another group that see and use your data, much to their profit. From the information you post and the places you visit online, they can extract data and create profiles. These profiles are then sold to other companies who target your "interests" with ads (Stein & Harrell, 2011). Have you ever noticed the ads on Facebook to the right of your profile? Do you know they are based on the information you provided!
Watch Protecting Reputations Online, a video by Common Craft, and learn why you can still find pictures on the Web long after you think they are gone and how being unprofessional and inappropriate online can affect you in the long run. It shares tips for how to avoid sharing inappropriate or private information as well as how to recover if you do.
So what constitutes unprofessional or inappropriate behavior?
1.) Using a prohibited social networking site at work for personal use
2. ) Posting photos that contain, for example:
3. ) Sharing trade secrets about your job or company
4. ) Posing as a minor or using a different identity
5. ) Cyberbullying
These are just some of the most inappropriate behaviors; the list could go on and on. Remember, social networking sites open people up to public scrutiny and privacy is not guaranteed. Given all the personal information accessible through these sites, it's easy to believe that people could be taken advantage of. Think how easy a stalker could retrieve valuable information, and identity theft is a very real possibility.
Mashable's Protecting Your Online Reputation: 4 Things You Need to Know provides additional information on how to protect your online reputation. Take a minute and make sure you are protected.
Social network. (2011). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved from http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/1335211/social-network.
Stein, J., & Harrell, E. (2011). Your Data, Yourself. Time, 177(11), 40-46.
Too much information. (n.d.) Who's Watching. Retrieved from http://whoswatchingcharlottesville.org/social.html
Vicknair, J., Elkersh, D., Yancey, K., & Budden, M. C. (2010). The Use Of Social Networking Websites As A Recruiting Tool For Employers. American Journal Of Business Education, 3(11), 7-12. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.