Social Skills in a Cyber World

What does google know about you? You might be surprised

By Rebecca Ferguson, Staff Writer

With a simple click, anything under the sun can be accessed in a fraction of a second. From shopping to news to entertainment, the Internet has it all. It also knows everything about you.

With double the page views of Google, Facebook is 2013’s most visited website worldwide. Twitter and professional networking site, LinkedIn, also slide into the top 15 of the world’s most visited sites. Personal blogging site WordPress is not much farther down the list.  Though none of these websites existed over a decade ago, they are now the face though which millions of people present themselves to the world. The internet’s meticulous attention to detail and permanent memory have made connecting with others a fast, easy and efficient task. Regrettably, the internet’s memory is far from selective. Good, bad, classy, trashy – once something is posted, the internet never forgets.

The Importance of Managing Personal Information on the Internet

Many internet users, especially those from generations too young to know a cyber-less world, are unaware of the importance of managing their online reputations. Unfortunately, the consequences of a poor online persona reach much father than embarrassing tagged photos that lead to several jokes at one’s expense.  Jay Ryaman, senior director of career services at Pennsylvania State University warned, “People have a false sense of security about their personal information out there on the Web… they think only their friends will see it.”

Many universities and employers screen all potential applicants before offering them admission or a job. In December of 2009, Microsoft commissioned a survey which found that 79% of hiring managers and job recruiters in the United States reviewed online information about job applicants, while 70% of those surveyed stated that they had rejected applicants based on their findings.

According to this survey, it is websites like Facebook, LinkedIn and WordPress that these employers are checking. The survey also found that employers’ decisions are often effected by concerns about the candidate’s lifestyle, inappropriate photos or discovering that information the candidate shared was false. Dan Schawbel, managing partner of Millennial Branding LLC and found of the Student Branding Blog, admitted to receiving many internship applications from students who do not manage their online reputations.  He wrote on this subject for the Wall Street Journal, “For instance, I searched for a student’s name on Facebook, and a group appeared that was protesting her getting kicked out of her dormitory. I decided to hire someone else!”

Getting that Good Reputation Back

The task of cleaning up one’s online reputation may at first seem daunting and impossible. However, a quick Google search leads to many helpful resources. Sites like RepuatationChanger.com and DefendMyName.com offer to do the job for a fee. However, there are much simpler options. Universities worldwide recognize that in order for their students to succeed, they must have respectable online presences. Therefore, tips and tricks on how to do so have become commonplace on university websites.

Carleton University, in Ottawa, Ontario, has launched a microsite that is designed to address safe and responsible online conduct. The microsite breaks down online activity into three main sections; social media, email & texting and photos & videos. The social media section begins by advising students to know the terms of agreement for sites they use or are a member of. Posts may become property of the company who owns the site.

Additionally, it is important to know privacy settings and be proactive about keeping them updated. Finally, before posting something, you should conduct the following four tests.

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