“The Internet’s not written in pencil, Mark. It’s written in ink.” — The Social Network
When there are so many options to interact with the online community through your blog, Twitter, Facebook and other social media tools, it can be surprisingly easy to succumb to the temptation to sometimes vent your frustrations online to your followers, friends, and fellow tweeters.
It is really important to remember that the Internet is not as anonymous as you might think. Your online voice gives others an impression of your personality and identity and it is important to protect yourself. But what is the best way to manage your online identity and continue to engage in an authentic way with your readers via your blog?
FIRST IMPRESSIONS COUNT
One factor to consider with revealing too much information has to do with the kind of first impression you might make, and not only to future employers but also to potential brands or companies who may want to partner with your blog on a collaboration or as a sponsor. Not that long ago, in-person first impressions were the key factor in others’ perceptions of you, but in the age of blogs, Facebook and in the Twitter-verse, employers and brands can easily get another type of impression altogether before having met you. A quick google search will bring up your Twitter and Facebook accounts, and anything else you may have posted online. What kind of impression do you want to make?
It is important to be authentic and genuine to truly be able to generate meaningful engagement with your readers and other bloggers, but it is also important to be considerate of the fact that not everyone who follows or observes your online identity has the context for every frustrated, negative or expletive-filled tweet, status update, or post.
THINK BEFORE YOU HIT ENTER
A few tips for maintaining a good online first impression include:
- Don’t name your employer.
- Don’t complain about your work (about that annoying co-worker, client or manager).
- Do keep expletives to a minimum.
- Do be honest when giving a negative review, but be constructive too (rude or sarcastic reviews with no constructive feedback might well discourage other brands from wanting you to review their item).
Common sense will likely be your most useful tool in keeping your online reputation as strong as your in-person version. Think of it this way – we don’t always have the time to think before we speak, but we definitely can think before writing (along with deleting and editing). Think before you write – especially since even deleting online posts may not always be enough (one word—screenshot).
KEEP SOME THINGS PRIVATE
Even more important, especially for bloggers who are putting out information in text, image and video, is protecting yourself, and your identity online. Because of the community atmosphere that blogging provides, it is easy to be lulled into the idea that the strangers reading your blog are people who are generally good-hearted, but there is always that off chance that this is not the case. Any number of problems can arise from releasing too much personal information via your blog or social media accounts – from possible stalking to identity theft. But how much is too much? Jason Kwong from Securityphile lists some great tips for what topics to carefully consider (or, if possible, totally avoid) when posting in any online format:
- Your age
- Your birth year
- Marital status
- Where you work/go to school
- People you live with or if you live alone
- Expensive items like cameras or computer equipment, jewelry
- Your location, past, present and future (including vacations)
- Your home address and the area you live in
- Your main method of transportation (car or public transit)
- Names of Family members and their relation to you
Ultimately it is up to you to decide how much or how little information you feel comfortable mentioning on your blog. You may feel as though your readers may want to know some things about you like how old you are or what you do for a living in order to feel a stronger connection to you as a blogger and in how they engage with your content. Just bear in mind that the more information you release online the more possibilities there are for people to misuse your information.
Some more ideas to help protect your information and identity online are:
- Use an online moniker (or your first name only) i.e. Susie Bubble
- Don’t take outfit photos near your street signs
- In photos, blank out any visible house numbers
- Don’t use the same password for all accounts
- Change passwords (to all social media accounts) every few months
- Use Antivirus/adware/spyware software
Again, common sense here rules supreme. Don’t release identifying information that could lead readers or viewers to you (address, SIN, etc.), and make sure that answers to any “secret questions” on your various social media, e-mail and blog accounts, really are secret and not easily answerable based on what your Facebook profile says about you.
How are you protecting yourself and your information on your blog?
Images via Gareth Pugh Spring 2008