Many people are idiots about how they act online. They think there are no consequences for anything they say or do. That sounds pretty cool, right? Unfortunately, these people are living in a dream world.
The Internet is still part of the real world. You interact with and appeal to real people. If you are a jerk, people will remember you. What’s worse, there is a digital record of everything you do more permanent than the archives of the Library of Congress.
The Internet archive scrolls the Internet regularly. It tracks every website and stores its information until the end of time. You may shut down your blog, but whatever you posted is still available for the world to find.
The same goes with social networking and search engines. These sites keep track of everything their users post and allegedly sell this information to advertisers. These companies data mine everything. They are in the business of remembering.
Of course, Big Brother also monitors your life online. Do you think I’m being paranoid? The Huffington Post created an article last year about twenty people who have been arrested for using Facebook. Another man was arrested when he made a joke on Twitter about blowing his plane “sky high” if his flight as delayed. The U.S. government also has the authority to subpoena Google if they think that they have evidence on a suspect.
Does this sound scary? Or course, most people are not going to do anything that would get them arrested. However, they may behave in a way that could damage their lives in other ways. Here are some tips for protecting your reputation online:
- Online Reputations are Complex. Many things affect how people perceive you. One mistake or bad habit can have serious impacts. Strive for perfection.
- Be a nice guy. This is common sense in our day to day lives. However, people sometimes want to vent the frustrations they can’t release elsewhere. The manners your mother taught you growing up apply online. You may never meet someone face-to-face, but they can make your life pleasant or miserable. Show them the same courtesy you would if they were sitting right next to you. In a way, they actually are.
- Transgressions are easily remembered. It seems to be human nature to remember suspect or dishonest actions ten times longer than good deeds. Many politicians have done wonderful things, but people are more likely to remember their scandals. The same goes for everyone who has ever gone online. Always be honest and forthright. You will regret it forever if you don’t.
- You are part of the company you keep. Who do you associate with online? As part of a group, you are indistinguishable from the company you keep. Social dynamics online are the same anywhere else. If I read a blog that links to scam artists, I will never go back. Understand the reputations of those you interact with, because they cast their light and shadows on those around them.
Moments of recklessness have ruined the lives of more than one Internet entrepreneur. You can’t move to a new house and start over with a fresh slate. Anything you do is out there forever, so be careful!