Many people get social media at a young age, before they care what people might think of them. They use social media to connect with friends or show off to high school peers they frankly don’t keep in contact with. However, that really doesn’t bode as well for them once they grow up and are liable for the choices they made. And if they decide to start and run a business, a sketchy past could tank their entire operation.
There is a danger to social media in this way: nobody wants to censor themselves, but big brother is watching — whether that be potential jobs, parents, the authorities, or anyone who can have an effect on your future successes. With all of this in mind, however, there’s still a great chance to show off your personality on social media so that those watching learn to trust your character. There is some reputation management that needs to be kept up when you enter the working world, so take note.
Understanding the Dangers of Social Media
Your personal social media accounts have a lot to say about you, as social media is your public expression to the world in the digital age. They could contain snapshots of your best days or your worst days, your funniest moments or your most regrettable moments, and typically past embarrassing haunts (especially if you used it during your crazy party days in college). These are things authorities are seeing when they search your name on social media sites to try and find information about your character.
There’s another danger in social media, however, and that’s what other people post about you. You might try to clean up your personal accounts and present yourself as a responsible business owner, but others may have public proof of your least-presentable moments. Stewart J. Guss, a personal injury attorney, used the example of a driving accident to explain how social media may affect a case:
The point is, everything you do could show up online, and it’s important that you recognize that. Being on your best behavior all the time is hard, but it’s good to keep in the back of your mind in case the wrong person might be watching.
Protecting Yourself on Social Media
There are three steps to guarding yourself via social media. First of all, you should make your personal profiles are private. Authorities will usually be able to find your classified information anyway, but people trying to defame you may have more trouble doing so if your profiles are private. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram all have options to ensure your profiles can’t be seen by people you don’t know.
Second, with the things that have already been shared publicly, it’s important to either delete or hide anything that could make you look irresponsible or unprofessional. Those “wrong place, wrong time” moments can be used against you in a court of law. This especially applies to pictures you’ve been tagged in.
Third, the things you’ve shared that reflect your personal opinions should be vetted for anything too controversial or incorrect. Social media is a hotbed of misinformation, and you need to be careful to ensure you’re not sharing fake news, and that you know how to identify it rather than playing into it. Otherwise, your intelligence and allegiances could be misinterpreted, and people could boycott your business once the law takes action against you.
A Social Advantage
It’s an unwise professional move to not be on social media — and frankly, it’s near impossible in this day and age. Thus, it’s a good idea to use it to your advantage. While you should monitor your profiles for anything irresponsible, you should also ensure you’re including things that show your character and values. These are the things that may be used to defend yourself in a sketchy situation.
The purpose of social media is to show who you are. And it is an opportunity to put your best foot forward with people who don’t know you. Using your social media accounts to build up your public persona rather than paint it in a bad light can protect you from defamation. Take advantage of that!
While social media can be condemning, it’s also a great place to showcase those things that make you who you are. It’s a good idea to control who can see your posts and who can’t. Always stay on your toes, because you never know who’s watching. Remember, your livelihood and your business’s reputation are connected, so protect both.