Chances are you look in the mirror at least once a day, if not several times, but how often do you take a step back and survey your online identity?
How others see us has a significant impact on how they respond to and treat us, and there are real consequences and measurable outcomes to crafting a favorable persona, both in face-to-face interactions, as well as online.
In the analogue world, your personal, physical attractiveness, grooming, height, weight, tone modulation and register, posture or bearing, expression, and social overtures or responses all have bearing on how others perceive you and respond to you. You only have seven seconds to make a first impression , and that first impression tends to shape all future interactions and perceptions of you. Some of these analogue factors are under your control – bearing and grooming, for instance – while others are up to fate, fortune, and genetics, such as height and other physical characteristics.
In that sense, you have a much greater opportunity to manage, moderate, and manipulate your digital portrayal. First impressions of you, or rather, your online persona, digital presence, and personal brand, are likewise formed on minimal, at-a-glance inputs, and tend to linger. And, as in the face-to-face interactions of the analogue world, these run the full gamut of human experience: professional, romantic, casual, etc.
Your social media presence is analogous to your physical appearance and is the basis for everyone from a client or new boss to a romantic partner (or their parents’) impression and opinion of you. Here are five reasons why your social media presence should be curated:
It’s going to get (or lose) you your next job.
Yes, employers are checking out your social media . So are your coworkers, your boss’s boss, prospective clients, colleagues, suppliers . . . anyone you come into contact with may stumble across your online identity, or go looking for it, at any time. Consider if the person you present online is the same as the one you’re bringing to work Monday morning.
It could be costing you money.
It’s not just coworkers looking at your profiles. Increasingly, lenders, service providers, tax authorities, insurance providers and other groups with financial power over you are using the content you share to make judgments. Your weekend activities can be used as grounds to raise rates, increase your risk assessment, deny coverage, or call out a statement which you may not have been entirely transparent about (oops.)
It’s undermining your friendships.
Is it “authenticity” and “transparency” or is speaking your mind and sharing openly turning into over-sharing and TMI? Your social media is less private than you think, especially with the constantly changing privacy settings and policies. Assume that anything posted online can and will eventually make it to the person you’d least like to have see it. Aim to present the person heading out the door at the beginning of the night, not the end of it.
It lasts long after you forget it.
This bears repeating, especially as social media ages up, along with its users. That emo post from your shaggy preteen days. That one-night pre-grad, and that weekend post-grad. That thing you said about your boss three jobs ago . . . that your new employer just stumbled across last night. You might not view the version of yourself five years ago, or ten, as who you are today, but friends, acquaintances, and colleagues stumbling across that content will find it harder to separate those identities.
It opens (or closes) doors.
Have you crossed an international border recently? Did you know they could legally ask for the passwords to your devices and social media accounts? Your social media presence quite literally could be closing doors for you. You’re entitled to your opinion and perspective, but you’re also being judged for it. Keep it positive, pleasant, and professional for best results.
When in doubt, aim to “undershare” and keep things minimal, polished, and professional. Mikhail Blagosklonny models an appropriately modest approach. A professor of oncology in New York, his shared content is clearly related to his professional identity, dealing with themes of health, aging, and cancer. Something of a public figure, but not a celebrity or high-visibility “influencer”, his approach to social media offers an approachable template for the average professional.
Keep your social media positive, professional, and curated as much as possible. Curate your online identity to optimize first impressions, prevent embarrassment, and avoid unnecessary costs and judgments associated with oversharing or exposing unflattering portrayals.