If you're reading this right now, then you are obviously on the Internet. And if you're on the Internet, chances are high that you have a Facebook or Friendster account, a Multiply, a blog, or all of the above--plus Twitter or Plurk. The Internet has made it so much easier for friends, acquaintances, and frenemies to stay connected. Plus, social networking’s chismis factor can be so much fun. You've probably discovered things about the people you know that you never would have imagined, all because of their online presence.
The Internet can definitely be entertaining, but it can also be very dangerous and damaging to your reputation, especially if you're not discreet about what you post. You might think nobody cares about you or what you write (aside from your real-life friends), but you'll be surprised to know that this isn't always the case.
The last two years were fraught with online scandals, and at the center of these scandals were private individuals who said too much or said something a little too insulting on their personal online space. Average people who thought they were only writing for their friends found their posts and photos being circulated all over the Internet along with some very cruel comments. People they didn't know and would probably never meet were judging them without even knowing them.
They learned an important lesson the hard way: nothing is ever totally private on the Internet.
Don't let this happen to you. You can take steps to manage your own online image. It might not be fool-proof, but at least it's a start. Cosmo's newly-revamped sister site FemaleNetwork.com tells you how.
- Google yourself.
Figure out what's already out there about you so you know where to begin. Just think, what you find when you Google yourself is the same thing potential employers will find if they Google your name. If your social networking accounts pop up, see if the information presented there could reflect badly on you, and then start to clean it up.
- Make all your social networking profiles private.
If you're the type of person who posts every single picture you take on your Facebook or Friendster profile, or if you have indiscreet friends who like to tag you in embarrassing photos, the least you can do is make sure only trusted contacts can see it. That doesn't mean your "friends" aren't above screen-capping private posts and spreading them online, but at least you're trying to do something about it.
- Post anonymously or come up with a fake name to post under.
If you're really determined to speak your mind on the Internet but you don't want people to trace it back to you, try to post under a pseudonym. That doesn't mean that smart folks won't be able to figure out it's you if they try really hard, though! Sometimes it's just better to…
- …Exercise discretion.
It can be as simple as thinking before you post. Make sure that everything you put up online is something that you'd gladly acknowledge in real life. Everything--from your photos and your e-mails, to your blog entries, your Facebook status messages, and your comments on other people's websites--is a reflection of who you are. Make sure that the persona you're presenting on the Internet is still the best possible you, because that information is available for the whole world to see.
The Internet can be an amazing tool if you use it responsibly. Not only does it keep you connected to the people you care about, but it can be a means to learn new things and become familiar with different cultures. And if you're technologically savvy, it can even be a venue for moneymaking. It's all a matter of knowing how to use it to reflect positively on you, instead of letting it ruin your rep.
Read more about online safety as well as other topics important to the modern Filipina on Cosmo.ph's sister site, the new and improved FemaleNetwork.