The Unofficial Guide to Managing Your Internet Self

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Spring semester is now fully underway – and with that comes the renewed efforts to get a job because never have you been in as much debt as you are in this moment.  A seventh of the population of Wesleyan is now probably transfers, and all the cushy year long job positions are full. It’s too cold and wet for potential employers to post flyers with information you need; and so you turn to the internet to get hired…. and face it, the internet turns back at you and gives you the judgemental once over, looking at the literal and metaphorical sweatpants you have inhabited since the snow started.

So, let’s be honest here – we’ve all ignored the “you must be over thirteen to join this site” clause and have been on social media since the grim days of Myspace and AIM chat. Ahhh, the internet.

But, more seriously, we have ourselves spread extremely thin – you Snapchat™ your best friend so they will respond to you on Facebook™, only so you can link them to your Instagram™ post – which is, of course, a screenshot of you vaguely being salty and calling someone out on Twitter™. Oh, that’s only me? Anyway, we’ve got a lot of places where we speak, and, while that’s great for fostering self-expression – it might not be the expression you choose to share with your bosses/professors/anyone who has access to $$$. Because we all want that $$$ – [insert broke college student joke here].

Without further ado, here is an Unofficial Guide to Managing Your Internet Self

Have different emails for work and play.

Email addresses are the key to the soul – or, at least to finding every profile you’ve had since your angst-ridden forum scrolling days. Most people have had their handles since literally forever. And, for the most part, unless the email username itself was inappropriate, you’ve probably kept it.

Hello, xXCoolPwnDudeXx and KittyMcgee113 at hotmail.com; glad to see you made it this far.

So, you’ve signed up for every website using these email addresses, what’s the deal? Well, two things. First, that cringey email is linked to your name – so even if you didn’t use that email when applying for jobs, it’s still possible it can be found. Second, your email is far more unique than your actual name on the internet in terms of searching for background on someone – SURPRISE. Pop that baby into Google (or Bing if you’re that person but for the love of everything don’t be that person) and let it find every website you’ve probably ever been on. Then weep. Then make a new email for work and use that. I would also suggest maybe taking the time to retire those old email addresses – you know, they’ve served you well during your middle school years; its time to let them collect Social Security and retire to a nice home down south.

“But I already sent the email OH NO what do I do??!?1?” Don’t worry, damage control is here. Go log in to the most – ahem, truthful – profiles, and go straight to your settings. Chances are, they have a Let-People-Find-You-By-Email option – turn that off. Pronto. Then, proceed to do everything else in this section.

People can find you by your phone number? Fix that.

Chances are that you know the power of the number. There is a reason why every app on your phone asks you to let them read your contact list. They will find you, and they will… excuse me, sorry about that, point is if you can sync your phone and find other people, they can do it right back unless you have already meticulously turned that off.

Do me a favor? Turn that off.

Also, as an aside – check your Leave-A-Voicemail message. I know a story about a girl, a friend of mine, and she was applying for a job and I forgot to change my voicemail to something more professional and they had to leave a message and all I ended up hearing in the callback voicemail was the sound of a landline hanging up on me- I mean My Friend.  Just, listen to your settings once in a while.

How About Not Using Your Real Name

A great way to ensure that the responsible adult figures in your life can’t find you is to not use your full name. Using a first and middle name instead of a first and last name is golden in that your profile is now too generic to be in the first three pages of Goog – I mean your preferred web searching engine. Or putting in a nickname as your first name. Friends will know how to find you, and professionals aren’t part of that intimate circle. Alternatively, just using a completely bogus name is a great way to remove associations and get a chuckle out of the #squad. #goals.

But, we know, some places won’t let you change your name. And a select few in this world have guardians who have been very creative and unique in the naming process so a separate arrangement of letters and name order isn’t enough to help. You can make a new account, or you can continue trying the tips above and below.

They know – or, why you need to selectively delete, edit, and censor.

Sometimes, the only way to escape terrible content is to delete it. But, let us be real here. The adults in your life know that you, to an extent, live. You’re going to have party pictures, silly pictures, social pictures. Everyone recognizes that its social media. For the most part, employers like to see that you are human – as much as you are professional, they want to know you are casually social. It’s part of being well-rounded – if you have no proof of life beyond the resume, they know something is up. If they take it at face value (and many do) you are a shut in – and that means that you might not have the skills to work with others, to discuss and add to conversation, or you are the potential Weird One that makes everyone else uncomfortable.

Or, they know that you are excessively cleaning up your internet persona. Questions will roam through their heads like “Are they into illegal activities?” or “Are they potentially [insert thing that you probably aren’t here]?” and suspicion will rise. Then, they might go the extra step and feel compelled to search deeper. Do you really want that?

So think – what is appropriate? Here’s a pretty general list of NO’s:

  • Drunk pics are a no. That does not mean pictures with drinks. There is a difference. Wine glasses for dinner/champagne on New Years are good, adult pictures that don’t lead to suspicion. Solo cups and post-dancing sweaty pits are not.
  • Nakedness is a no. Regrettably, even if its art. Unless the job you’re going to likes that stuff. Context, yo.
  • Inside jokes involving rude gestures (aka THE BIRD/ that “Bloods” sign that we all did in middle school why did we do that)
  • Pictures of you with violent context/weapons are usually not too hot in the young professional scene. (yes we know you’re proud of the paintball gun but can WE tell it is a paintball gun????)
  • Too many weird memes/ Photoshop edits (this isn’t gonna make you or break you but you might get a couple of questions. It’s kinda more that there is a huge gap in what we find humorous and what (older) people with $$$ find humorous.)
  • Sexual jokes. (I mean do you really need to type these???)
  • Racial jokes. (I MEAN DO YOU REALLY NEED TO TYPE THESE???)

Think about the oldest person you know – if you would feel weird with them reading it – hide it. Delete it.

**Protip: Spelling. Fix up the worst offenders. It’s not gonna kill you, but you want people to think you formulate ideas with some iota of, well, of giving a $%*&.

Filters, circles, and the like.

Now this is probably pretty important as well. Newer, expansive sites understand that the target audience of your profiles are numerous and diverse across the internet world. So, filtering content is a great way to post everything you want to the right audience.

Facebook? Next to your name, you get a drop down, that allows you to change privacy settings per post. Preset groups like Everyone, Friends, and Public are already there; or, you can choose to set up new groups like “Childhood Friends and Family”, “High School Friends”, “Wesleyan People”, or “Adults I Need To Impress”. The best part? People don’t know what group you label them as on Facebook.

Google+ has the infamous circles, which ensures that your sphere are separate as well. Too bad no one likes Google+. Not to mention that all social media sites have group direct messaging if you just have to share things with people. Point is, there are so many ways to share your life with the appropriate people.

And, finally:

Check yo’self before you wreck yo’self. Please.

Pretend you are the searcher. Search yourself! Chances are you actually will be more thorough. Use all forms of your name. Use email. Use phone number. Use a combination of the three. Type your name and then the city where you live to narrow down what you see. Do it again. Search using photo search. Search yourself with nicknames. If you see what they see and you like it or fix it then you’re set. And do it on a regular basis. Once you do the hard, sit down for four hours at Olin with your brightness at lowest setting clean up, the rest is maintenance. It’s like cleaning your room, but for the internet. You had to pick clothes off the floor and scrub on hands and knees, and all you have to do after that is a bi-weekly sweep of the floor.

Don’t pay for a search. Those are scams. Always. You’re welcome.

And, before you go, make sure you’ve got some good piece of your life’s history up, too! An old school article you’re proud of writing, your blog for travel or something. A nice LinkedIn account. A flattering picture or two. Now breathe, you are all set, and are ahead of the game.