What does the World Wide Web have to say about you? A quick Google search of your name can pull up your Facebook, Myspace, and Twitter profiles, as well as your personal website, your blog, comments you made on other people's blogs, reviews you have posted, news articles about you, and maybe even your contact information and birthdate. In the past, SHARE! has even sent students home because photos were posted online of them drinking in the U.S. And remember - if you can find it, so can your friends, host family, SHARE! Exchange Program Coordinator, teachers, and in the future, college applications staff, prospective employers, even potential love interests!
Consider carefully what you want your online reputation to be - think of it like a resume (C.V.), application or portfolio. In most cases, you want to appear responsible, polite and respectful. Beyond that, do you want people to think of you as professional? Creative? Fun-loving? Adventurous? Do you want to appear politically opinionated, or more open-minded? Do you wish to post your accomplishments, or samples of your work, online?
It's your job to make sure that your online "personality" protects your reputation (and keeps you safe, as well). Below are 5 simple ways you can protect your online reputation:
Google yourself! What comes up?
Check your privacy settings for your online profile. It's best to block your profile & photos from anyone who's not a "friend." There are a lot of creepy people out there who you probably don't want browsing through your life...
Who are your "friends?" Occasionally, scroll through your Facebook, MySpace or Twitter friends. This will remind you of who can view your photos, videos, status updates, etc. Before posting anything, think to yourself, "Do I really want ALL my online "friends" to be able to see this? What is the worst that could happen as a result?"
Blogging - the pros and cons An online blog can be a great way to share your thoughts with the world. To keep your blog safe, put yourself in the place of a "bad guy" and look at your blog objectively. If a "bad guy" pulled up your blog, could they see what your name is and what you look like? Could they find out what day your birthday is? If they wanted to find you or one of your friends, could they just show up at your school or home? Consider using only first names, password-protecting your blog, and not mentioning the name of your school or town. Also, keep the language and content of your blog appropriate. A good rule of thumb: would you let your grandmother read your blog? What about your role model? Or applications staff at the college you most want to attend?
Make sure your friends know that you want to protect your online reputation. A good friend might think twice about publicly posting the funny/embarrassing photo of you, and just email it to you instead!