Never Facebook Anyone Over 30 – The Dangers of Letting It All Hang Out Online

Thanks to Lori Gama

My wife just came back from a trip visiting her daughter at college and offered an interesting observation. The up and coming generation lives online. Okay, this is not a real revelation, but my stepdaughter and her friends seem obsessed with continuous connectivity. They are simultaneously chatting, texting, Facebooking, e-mailing. The objection that mom has is that multitasking is socially unattractive and her daughter can’t pay attention during a dinner conversation or even walking down the street because she is glued to her iPhone. (The solution, of course, is to text her while standing next to her, but this is not behavior we want to reinforce.) I have even caught my stepdaughter on Skype in the wee hours of the morning so clearly, this new need for ongoing Internet-driven access is becoming all-consuming. 

And just as everyone under 25 considers himself or herself indestructible, they also consider their online activities immune from extrenal judgment. You can post those frat party pictures on Facebook because you know your mom won’t see them. Right? Wrong! 

Here’s the perception: Microsoft commissioned a new Online Reputation Research study that show that fewer than 15 percent of consumers in the U.S. and U.K. think that information posted online will have any impact on their getting a job. Only 7 percent of U.S. consumers believe information about them online has affected their job search; in the U.K it was 9 percent. 

Here’s the reality: 70 percent of recruiters and HR professionals have rejected candidates based on information found online. While recruiters indicated they are somewhat concerned about the authenticity of the information they find online, recruiters in all countries indicated that the importance of online reputation will increase over the next five years. And 85 percent of US recruiters and HR professionals say they were positively influenced by favorable information found online. 

Some of the smarter consumers are trying to manage their online reputations using multiple personas. They also frequently search for information about themselves,  they set up Google news alerts to track online mentions, adjust the privacy settings on social media sites, and they are cautious about posting information that could damage their online reputation. All of these steps are helpful, but they aren’t foolproof and are no substitute for common sense. 

Whether you think it appropriate for a potential employer, or partners, or client, or romantic partner should check you out online, you know they will. And the Web has a very long memory. Those drunken spring break photos you post on Facebook today could come to haunt you after graduation when you look for a job. And more importantly, your conduct online once you are working could affect your employer as well as your employment if you don’t use good judgment. 

These days, we all live in glass houses, and the Web focuses a lens on all our personal activities. So while there is tremendous value on social networking to promote connections and build your personal brand, understand that the same power of the Web can disseminate your faux pas just as rapidly and aggressively. So if you are going to live your life online, don’t do anything that your mother (or a potential employer) would be ashamed of.

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