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Could your social media history affect your future goals?

Updated: Mar 28, 2019

With the volume of social media activity and online activity, content is continually being resurfaced which may compromise future job applications, scholarships/grants, or even a personal relationship.

Accountability for what you post, share and contribute online is not limited to Hollywood or politicians; it applies to all digital citizens.

The consequences of an off-the-cuff comment or poorly intended humor could result in:

• Inability to travel to certain countries;

• Rejection of applications or other submissions (e.g. grants); or

• Termination of employment/study or other membership (some cases).

Owning your online presence and reputation means actively managing privacy and security, and staying current with new ways to stay safe online.

Why is it important?

You may not realise is that there is probably more of your personal information floating around in cyber-space than you think, it is called a digital reputation.

This includes what you post on social media and your browsing habits as well as the information organisations collect about you.

Actions online make an impact offline and you can create a strong and positive online reputation by taking steps to better manage your privacy and protect your personal information.

Where do I start to assess my digital reputation?

If you have never searched for yourself online, now may be the time to do so. If you conduct an internet search on your name, you may find more than you bargained for.

Take a moment to reflect on the information you share about yourself on the social networking sites you have joined.

What should I think about when engaging online?

  • Be conscious of what you are sharing. Set privacy and security settings to your comfort level.

  • Share with confidence. Think before posting about yourself and others online. Consider the content, who might see it and how it could be perceived now and in the future (10 years).

How do I build positive online reputation?

The adage that “you are what you eat” can be applied to the digital world as well in so far as “you are what you post, share or like”.

Taking positive steps to build your reputation is important, this could include:

  • Joining a professional network such as LinkedIn and putting together a robust profile.

  • Commenting on professionally-oriented blogs and participate in online forums where you have expertise.

  • Starting a blog in your own name. Write regularly on a subject about which you are knowledgeable. Invite visitors to make comments.

I did something 'stupid', can I clean up my digital reputation?

Cleaning up your digital reputation can be a difficult task but not impossible.

Approaching the service provider that is hosting the content, with your concern, is often a first step. Depending on the type of service provider and location, the results can be mixed.

An alternative may be to build a better image of yourself online over time. This is sometimes referred to as burying the bad with the good, such as creating new content that outweighs the ‘bad’.

There are also professional services who can attempt to do this on your behalf.

Can I have multiple digital identities?


Using different e-mail addresses or screen names for each digital community is a powerful way to control your online reputation.

By not linking personal information, you are able to protect some aspects of our identity and this may provide a level of comfort and trust. But remember to not cross reference or the two reputations may be associated.

Notwithstanding, always remember that, regardless of the account, you should always be mindful about what you are posting and who you are sharing it with.

From an ethical standpoint, anonymity does not grant us a license to misbehave and disregard key ethical principles.

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