If you need further proof that the way you live your personal life online can affect your professional life, look no further than Anthony Weiner, the Democrat Congressman who resigned this week over a lewd photo posted to Twitter. Though he tried to redeem his career, fellow Democrats like President Obama and Nancy Pelosi pressed him to step down.
We live online. We date online. We study online. That’s not going to change. But let’s take a moment to learn from the Weinergate scandal the impact your online personal life will have on your professional life.
- Know how to use the social networks you’re on. Weiner may not have been aware that Twitter is a very public, visible forum, unlike the partial privacy available through Facebook. But he should have known before posting lewd photos online. Make it your mission to be aware of how the social networks you use operate. If you don’t, it could cost you a job offer, like it did with with Connor Riley. After being offered a job by Cisco, she tweeted about weighing the long commute and work she hated against the fatty paycheck. Needless to say, she never did work for Cisco.
- The internet is written in ink. In The Social Network movie, as Mark Zuckerberg’s character tries to apologize to his ex-girlfriend for slandering her name on his blog, she replies, “The internet’s not written in pencil, Mark, it’s written in ink.” As we saw from Anthony Weiner, once you have posted something online, you won’t be able to control where it goes and who sees it. Even though Weiner quickly removed the incriminating photo, it had already been tweeted about, re-tweeted and screen shots were taken. In fact, there were over 44,000 tweets that involved the Weinergate scandal. That’s called electronic evidence, friends.
- Employers and college admissions will be looking for you online. As a student or job hopeful, make no mistake about it, your social media presence will be screened by potential employers and colleges. According to a study by CareerBuilder, 35% of employers decided not to offer an applicant a job after reviewing content on their social media profiles. Kaplan Test Prep released a new study reporting that 82% of people working in college admissions admitted to checking their applicants’ Facebook page.
- Set your privacy options. The good news is is possible to keep things under wraps socially. If you want more privacy, customize your Facebook privacy options so you have more control over what is public and visible to the world. Twitter and Blogger also feature privacy options that let you keep your tweets and blogs visible to your network. That said, don’t overestimate your privacy settings’ ability to protect you.
- Think before you post. Don’t do or say anything you wouldn’t be willing to say in front of your boss or your mother.