We all know it. It doesn’t really need to be said, but I’m going to say it anyway. These days if you want to be seen and heard you have to be online. And in a day and age when being online is no longer an option, being socially aware is more important than ever.
What do I mean by socially aware?
In this context being socially aware means being conscious of what information is available about you online and how people find and access that information. It might not be the best part of your business, but it is a very important one.
So what can you do to be more socially aware? Where do you start? Below are five tips on how to stay aware and protect yourself.
1. Google yourself.
Go on. Type your name or your business’s name in the search bar and see what Google has to say about you. A few years ago I would Google myself and find all of my race results from forever. Well, I haven’t been running much over the past decade, and have certainly been active online in a plethora of other ways.
Recently, I found out their are more people out there that spell my name the same way (Nickole). Who knew?! Google did. And that picture I posted of me on my Facebook page where I was sitting at the cafe in San Francisco? Yep, Google likes that one a lot.
What do you find when you Google yourself?
2. Manage your privacy settings.
Doug’s dad’s uncle’s mother should not be able to see your Facebook profile unless you guys are actually friends. It’s pretty easy to manage who sees your content on Facebook, as long as you take the time to manage it. For me, only approved friends and family can see my personal page. Which brings us to #3.
3. Decide who your friends should be.
Yes, you can be picky about who gets to view your profile. You do not have to accept Doug’s dad’s uncle’s mother as your friend unless you really want to. And there is NO GUILT there. I receive 3-4 friend requests each week. Sometimes I know the person, trust them, and accept their request immediately. Other times I have no idea who the person is, so I go check out their profile, see how many friends we have in common, and figure out if I do actually know them or if it is a totally random request before making a decision.
Here’s the deal. Whomever I accept to be my friend on Facebook gets access to all my posts, gets to see all my pictures, gets to like and comment and interact. I have pics of me, my husband, my kids, my pets, my hikes…. they get access to all of that.
You get to choose who gets access. You have ever right to be picky about who gets access. There is no obligation to accept. There is no guilt not to accept.
Same goes for all of your other social accounts as well. Monitor and be choosy about who gets access to your information.
4. Review, Purge, Protect
It is a good idea to sit down and have a heart to heart with your social network accounts from time to time. Think of it as spring cleaning, but for your online accounts instead of your house.
Review your privacy settings for each account and a make adjustments accordingly. The networks will make updates to their policies periodically, so be sure to go in and make sure your settings are still to your liking.
Purge your list. I know it sounds anti-social and icky and you don’t want people to hate you. I know that for me, there are a few people on my list that I accepted because we were friends in high school or because they were coworkers at a corporate job I had three jobs ago. Turns out that we have nothing in common now. And they are still seeing pictures of my kids and pets. No bueno. Take a look at your list of connections across your social networks and make sure you still want everyone on that list to continue to have access to your online accounts. Again, there is no guilt in removing someone from your social network if it is not longer a mutually beneficial relationship.
Protect your personal/professional image. By taking the time to review who you let have access and periodically purging people from your list you will be taking a big step toward protecting your personal and professional image – both online and off.
5. Accept that the Internet is forever.
My racing scores from ten years ago are still online. Today, I found a picture of myself running (mostly walking) the Seattle half-marathon from two years ago. The first thing I ever posted to Google Plus is on the first page of Google. That crazy picture of you drunk at the lake with your friends that you posted three years ago. Yep, your new boss can go online and search and find it. Embarrassing!
What you put out into the interwebs stays on the interwebs!
All this to say, be picky about what you put out there. Think before you post. I’m not saying everything you put out into the world has to be sunshine and rainbows. We all know nobody is always sunshine and rainbows. Yes, you can post that you are having a shitty day or that you are partying at the lake or that you are at the basecamp at Mt. Everest (they have wifi, right?). But when you post or comment or like or share make sure you take the time to think, “Is this a true reflection of me and how I feel or what I believe? Is this part of the image I want to project to the world?” And if the answer is yes, then go for it!