This is a popular subject for bloggers, and we know that our online reputation is important, but somehow human nature seems to mean that many of us are as casual about it as with our offline reputation.
Most of us away from our computers do not say unpleasant things about others and whilst there is always gossip and tittle-tattle, by the time it is passed on, if it is, it is often taken with a pinch of salt. The recipient of the information often clouds the issue in their mind by thinking about the teller’s motives for passing on the information and anyway much of what is said soon fades in the memory. Gossip and even things we have witnessed are forgotten in time and in the light of later events.
However, our online behaviour is there for all to see. Everything we say may be taken down and used in evidence against us. Of course we manage our professional websites, but our blogs and other web material can be seen by anyone at any time. A comment I make to someone on Twitter about our weekend plans is in my Google Alerts, sometimes within a couple of hours, so quite apart from giving information to my followers, anyone can find out anything I have divulged at any time. I cannot retract remarks I have made on Twitter, and if I delete anything from my blog, it could still be seen through Google cache for sometime to come, and anyway it might have been re-blogged or copied somewhere else.
At this point one might say that “what you see is what you should get” but really we do not want to reveal all our foibles even through Facebook, because if we are careless, we could give away a lot of information people do not need to have. We could even become victims of identity fraud or simple impersonation, further damaging our reputations. Whilst we may want to be as open with our friends as we would in an off-line environment we do not know who is watching with evil intent, or who might simple misconstrue a remark taken out of context.
When I am going to meet anyone new in a business context, including a new client, I do a web search. I am sure most other people do too. That is not to pry, but often because we need to make our new acquaintances feel we are interested and to be prepared for our meeting and for what issues might be raised. It is simple due diligence, but who knows what impression an ill thought-out remark might give in the wrong virtual ears or hands?
I try to show enough of my personality online to give readers an idea of my interests, of what I do for a living and for recreation and of course family. Those readers need something to which to relate, so I have pretty much stopped the boring stuff like Twitter advertising, or promoting myself directly through my blogs. Of course many may still think I am boring. Someone more or less told me so before “un-following” me on Twitter. However, I think I would rather be boring than have every cuss word I might have thought broadcast on Twitter, or every detail of our family life known to the world.
What is your approach? I would love to hear your views.