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Managing Your Online Reputation

Instructor: Dana Dance-Schissel

Dana teaches social sciences at the college level and English and psychology at the high school level. She has master's degrees in applied, clinical and community psychology.

The Internet provides a main mode of communication in modern society. This lesson will explore ways to manage your online reputation and will end with a brief quiz.

Communicating Online

How many times have you been online today? Well, you are obviously online now reading this, but maybe you purchased something, did some banking online, or at least sent an email. This is how people get things done, isn't it?

What about social media? How many times have you checked your social media accounts in the last hour? Many people report being checked in at all times. Social media has become the main method of staying connected and getting information for many people.

People who use social media create what is commonly referred to as a digital fingerprint. This is a fancy way of describing your online identity. Everything you post, everything you read and 'like,' and all of those whom you 'friend' become a permanent part of your digital fingerprint. Yes, that is correct. Almost everything we put out online stays there forever! It's a bit creepy to think about, isn't it? Do you ever actually stop to think about who might see what you post online?

Most people post things for friends, hence the name social networking. Would you want your mother or grandmother seeing what you post? How about a future employer or college admissions representative? You need not be afraid of your digital fingerprint as long as you take steps to manage your online reputation. Your online reputation is the virtual first impression that people make about you as a result of your online activity. Let's take a look at some ways that you can keep your online reputation in good standing.

The Five Second Rule

Most people have said something they regret in life. Maybe you called your little sister a mean name or talked back in class. Have you ever heard the saying think before you speak? This is not always easy to do, but can be helpful in making sure that you don't say something you'll regret later. This same idea can be very helpful when managing your online reputation.

The next time you are about to post something online stop to think about it for five seconds. Is this something that you are proud of? Does this bit of information represent who you really are and how you want to be viewed? If not, don't post it. One impulsive post may remain visible online for years or longer. Think before you post.

The Virtual Calling Card

When is the last time you posted a photo of yourself online? Did you edit it first? Photo editing software has become commonplace in modern society. Most people use it to make themselves look better in photos before they post them online for others to see. Use this same idea to thoughtfully construct your digital fingerprint.

In the old days, people would hand out a calling card when they met someone new. This usually had the person's contact information and sometimes had a photograph. Social networking has become the calling card for today's generation. Think about your online reputation as your virtual calling card. You would not hand someone a dirty and wrinkled calling card if you wanted them to call you, would you? Then do not create a dirty and wrinkled online reputation.

When posting photos and images, ask yourself if this is something that you are proud of. Does the image stand the test of time? In other words, will you still find this attractive or funny a year from now or even ten years from now? Would this be something that your would want your future kids to see? If there is any doubt in your mind, do not post it!

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