Around my twelfth year of life, I discovered the internet. Downloading, chatrooms, games, you name it. The biggest social media names I lunged myself into were Facebook and Youtube, among other small ones such as Habbo, MyYearbook, etc. After realizing how fun having an online personality was, I started creating more accounts for different sites. Some sites I never even used (such as Ficly, Uinvue, svpply). Looking back, I’d say I signed up for all those accounts just to have my name pop up on the google search. I thought that was beyond cool. I never really considered the implications until now.
That’s not to say I wasn’t aware of safety on the internet; privacy settings weren’t always a big deal to me up until I reached high school and my french teacher started following me on Twitter. He’s a pretty genuine guy, and he was definitely one of my favorite people – so I didn’t want him to think I was careless and foolish when it came to internet privacy. I refrained from tweeting obscene things, with the occasional f-bomb here and there. Rarely anything questionable. There was one tweet about a Filipino family, however…
No matter, I knew it was time to start stepping up my game; keeping my mind clean and my tweets cleaner. During the summer after high school, my friends would always say really obscene things. Things I can’t even bare to repeat. I would always say “Man, I wish I could tweet that!” to which they’d reply, “Why can’t you?” and my answer always being “because Mr. Patterson is still following me on Twitter.” They always said that I’m not in high school anymore, it doesn’t matter what I say because no one can get me in trouble. In a sense, I almost believed that… until I reached this course. What we’ve been talking about has really opened my eyes, even more so, to helping me realize how prevalent I am on social media. Those years of signing up for random accounts has finally given me an end result. Now I’ve got to go back and pick up the mess I made.
I understand that being widespread all over the internet can be a bad thing, but I think it really helps get your name out as well. As for me, I’ve definitely put myself out there; Twitter being my most popular search result. My first step in improving my “digital footprint” would be to finally delete all those null social media accounts. They’re not hurting me, but they’re also not helping me. At all. I feel like they’re completely redundant; by deactivating unused accounts, it would be me more incentive to focus on the big ones that I use, like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Youtube, and StumbleUpon. I think this step would be effective in the sense that when someone of important and relevance to me searches my name on google, the results that come up aren’t a bunch of accounts with my name, my pictures, and nothing else. If you’re going to put yourself out there, you should really put yourself out there.
Second step: clean yourself up! If I’m going to be putting my mainly-used social networks where everyone can get at them, keep it classy! There are few things worse in this world than unfortunate Facebook posts. It’s a small step, but a useful one. Always mediate not only what you’re putting on, but what you’re friends are saying too. Just the other day, one of my old friends thought she was being funny and nostalgic by posting a quote from a movie we had watched together in grade 8. The quote (extremely offensive and distasteful, even more so in context) was funny when I was 13. I thought it was hilarious, but now I just think it’s immature and rude. People change, as should your facebook etiquette. You can’t always control what is posted, but you can choose if it shows up on your profile. So naturally, I deleted her post… I feel kind of mean, though. I didn’t tell her and now she probably thinks I hate her.
My last, and seemingly most important step is knowing what to post, when to post. Have you ever found yourself in a fit of rage, sitting at your keyboard thinking about all the interesting things you could subtweet about someone? (Subtweet being the latest in Twitter lingo). It’s interesting how little people care about who’s listening when they’re angry or upset; it’s almost as if rage knows no bounds. So while I’m sitting at the computer thinking “if I tweet this, and she sees it, she’ll know I’m angry and I’ll feel better about the situation”. All I have to say to that is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V3y3QoFnqZc. You think your subtweet is necessary and clever, but I can bet you anything it’s not as great as you think. And it’s definitely not doing you any favors. So, my biggest thing I need to work on is keeping the same general mindset when putting my thoughts into the twittersphere. I may not have that great of a filter when it comes to speaking in person, but I believe I can improve my habits a bit better when everything isn’t so real-time.
As a whole, online branding is important. Letting people know who you are before they even meet you. People can’t get to know you in a social media environment if every site they look up doesn’t have anything past your sign up information – my advice, if you’re not using it, delete it! Go back later if you feel it’s of higher relevance to your life. With the sites that you are using, don’t let them be contaminated with the unfortunate postings of the “old friend who is stuck in grade 8”. You’re growing up, you’re maturing, let your online profile follow. Meanwhile, make sure you’re posting the right thing. While it looks bad on you for people to see inappropriate posts of friends, it’s worse coming from you. There’s a time and place for your raw, unfiltered rants about how much of a “douche bag Jimi is”, unfortunately… Twitter is not the place. Brand on, my friends.