“It’s Not Who I Am Now”
October 2, 2018
How many times have we heard that from a high-profile celebrity, athlete, politician or CEO after they were “blindsided” by their own social media histories? Among the recent: White Sox pitcher Michael Kopech who was beaned on Twitter when digital diggers excavated homophobic and racist tweets sent by the sports star when he was 17. His response, like many others, “It’s not who I am now.” Maybe not, but the hard lesson for Kopech, and all of us, is that our past activity online can have a huge impact on who we are now.
Social media miners can find our digital past in cyber seconds. Have you heard the term doxing? It’s when someone goes digging online for personal, often sensitive information, and publishes it without consent. The motivation for doxing is often malicious, however, even news organizations are doxing to uncover identities and information.
Not exactly doxing, but digital digging is underway at companies across America. Employers routinely do a Google search of job candidates, not to expose or publish the information, but to get a better picture of who someone is — or was.
Don’t want to be doxed or dumped by your digital presence?
- Take a few hours to review all of your social media platforms. One night of drunk posting can be a treasure trove for digital diggers. Delete posts that are offensive, inappropriate or embarrassing. If that seems too overwhelming, consider deleting your platforms and starting over. Update or create new profiles that reflect who you are now. Make them relevant for the audience you are trying to reach, whether it’s family or friends, or in the case of LinkedIn, potential employees, clients and other professionals. Your profiles tell your story, so make sure they reflect who you are today, not when you first discovered social media.
- Civility, respect for others and truth are good pillars for all posts. Have fun, be authentic — but don’t share every thought that pops in your head. Feeling rage over a political post? Consider a one hour — one day? — cooling off period before expressing your thoughts.
- If you do post something you regret, take action immediately. Delete the post and offer a brief but sincere apology or clarification. Own it and move on. If the trolls take over, delete their posts and consider taking a break from posting for a while. Kopech took responsibility for his offensive teen tweets, apologized and deleted the posts. It was the right response and the coverage was contained.
- Use your privacy settings. Every platform has a number of options that will help you establish a circle of trust. Take a few minutes to read this Washington Post guide for protecting your data online. Tighter privacy settings will help protect you from data thieves and possible doxing. Be selective with your audience, on every platform.
Social media is fun and valuable, but a thoughtful approach to every post and profile can save you a lot of time, anxiety and maybe even your job or reputation.
October 2, 2018