With internship and graduate school applications, as well as the job-hunting process, just over the horizon for many Lipscomb students, now is a great time of year to look at cleaning up your digital profile, especially since October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month.
Cleaning up a digital profile with inappropriate photos, evidence of unprofessional behavior or untoward comments is not easy (and never permanent); but faculty in the School of Computing and Informatics have suggested a few things prospective students and employees can do to put their best foot forward online.
- One of the first steps is cleaning up your Facebook profile. Remove tags from all unflattering photos posted on Facebook and remove such photos from your own profile. Users can request that others remove a photo or report photos that they don’t like, that they don’t think should be on Facebook or that are spam. Users can also set up their profile settings to require others to ask permission before tagging you in a photo on their profile.
- Step two is to stop posting any material that could be considered inappropriate. Certainly nothing illegal or sexually suggestive should ever go up on a Facebook, Twitter or Instagram profile, but absolutely not during times you are looking to impress those who will affect the rest of your life.
- Step three is to post positive items on your Facebook profile. Work on building a good brand for yourself. Admissions counselors and employers are looking and people lose out on opportunities based on their Facebook profiles every day. Use your Facebook profile as a showcase for accomplishments, service, academic work and thoughtful insights. Certainly, continue to use your Facebook for positive, appropriate interactions with friends and family, but remember that outside people are also looking at your profile, and when it comes to Facebook, less is more. What is posted should be intentional and show how well-rounded you are.
While a digital profile can be tidied up for future use, what’s already on the Internet, will always be on the Internet. There isn’t really a foolproof way to rebuild an online reputation, so the best way to make the most of your digital profile is to be mindful of what you are posting from the beginning.
In addition to lost opportunities, information released to the web can and has caused humiliation, vulnerability to criminal activity and long-term emotional damage. Stories of victimization and even suicide due to emotional abuse and cyberbullying are becoming more and more common each year. Many photos taken by a cell phone and posted online carry a digital tag that hackers can use to determine where the photo was taken--often your home. Threats made on the Internet are not considered idle chatter; they are considered real threats by law.
If you have experienced the dark side of social media, Assistant Professor of Psychology Chris Gonzalez offers a few tips for getting through what can be an emotionally devastating experience:
- Don’t continue to engage those providing negative feedback online. On the Internet things can and do go “unviral.” They do stop, but engaging it can keep it going and make the torment last even longer.
- Just get rid of your Facebook profile. The benefits of a Facebook profile do not outweigh the negative consequences once a cycle of cyber-harassment begins, he said.
- Find a positive community to engage in. Get new friends. Surround yourself with people who will be more positive. Building a safe face-to-face community is just as important as building a safe virtual community when bullying is taking place.
So when you sit down for a night of social media, don’t forget that the Internet is not written in pencil, it is written in ink. Everything you put on the Internet is like a social tattoo.