We all know why we should be conscientious about what kind of material about us is out there on the Internet – you’ve heard the “horror stories” of that poor woman who didn’t get a job because there were pictures of her half-naked sloppy drunk on Facebook – but how exactly do you do this?
I was prompted to think about this by a radio commercial I heard on the way home from class tonight. The commercial was for a company that claimed that they would “clean up your online image” – for only $99! Obviously, I’m skeptical. I grew more suspicious as the commercial continued: they would either “take down the offensive material” or they would “bury it so far down in the search engine results that no one would ever find it.”
Is this possible?! As an individual, can you outsource your image management? (Well, I guess celebrities do, but – is this something that you or I could do?) Are these claims legitimate? How could a company – who doesn’t have control over the content for Facebook, or a blog – claim to be able to actually remove something off of the Internet? Further, we sort of know how SEO works (Google’s not exactly forthcoming about the process, but we have some idea of the criteria), and it seems that a lot of it relies on the content of pages – again, not something one company can just go and change in the code of another company’s website.
Ultimately, I think, it comes down to owning your “image,” owning your name online and you being the person who generates the content about yourself. Don’t let other people define you online. When you Google yourself, your content should be the first few results that appear. People are more likely to click on the first few results, so make sure those results are your choice of words, your choice of photographs, your choice of videos.
Some ways to do this are obvious – having a blog with your name attached, Twitter account using your real name, and/or website your own domain name – but it’s also easy to overlook things that pop up on a search that you might not want to be readily available. For instance, if you comment on a blog using an account login – your name is permanently attached to the comment you post, as well as the original post and other comments. Obviously, you don’t want to get in a heated exchange about the reason why Lindsay Lohan is right to blame her dad for all her issues with your name plastered on all your comments.
What are ways that you manage your online identity? Do you think that this company has a legitimate claim for its services that I’m not aware of? This is an emerging issue for students, job seekers, etc. that we all need to be thinking about.