Online Footprints & How to Strengthen Them


It's important to get some background understanding on internet culture and social media. Before delving into the tips on strengthening your online footprint, let's think about some things.

Firstly, why do you post?

  • Show our personalities
  • Belong to a community
  • Share information
  • Flirt
  • Adrenaline rush
  • Get attention
  • Feel good about ourselves
  • Curate things we like
  • Communicate with others
  • Emotional outlet
  • Attempts to reach others
  • Bored
  • Trolling
  • Creative outlet

Anything else?

Google yourself and see what comes up. Do you like what message and images show up?

  • Would that dream job hire you?
  • Will you be able to keep that scholarship or stay in school for behaving like this?
  • Will that relationship or person you''re interested in want to be with you after seeing this?

The concept of FOREVERISM: What is it?

According to Internet Society (2016) there are over 200 third-party advertisers and 630 tracking technologies collecting our data. Even if we do not give permission to these organizations and technologies to gather and use our data, they do. Each site we visit has potential to reach someone else when they look us up. The problem that arises with this is we are not always able to defend ourselves with what people find. Assumptions about our character can be made, which can affect how others see us.

These assumptions can be negative and affect how you may be hired or contacted for potential work or opportunities. The websites we visit, research, places we comment or like, images we post or hashtags we use, can all be tracked and come back to us in misinterpretations. It's important to think about the possibilities for people to screenshot our conversations, comments, and exchanges online.

The internet is forever. 

Do images and verbiage that you delete really go away? Junk Mail: where does it come from? Digital Marketing: Each time you buy something or research products on any website...other marketing pop ups occur. (Isn't that creepy?!) Google, apps, Echo Home, Alexa: are you listening? To everything? 

In addition to unknown parties tracking your personal data, people you know, "friends" or "followers", have access to your posts, comments, and photos online. This is especially important for young adults, teens, and children. SEXTING is part of youth online culture, however, it is a very dangerous behavior for the following reasons:

  • Depending on your state, possessing and distributing nude photos of those under 18 can be considered possessing and distributing pornography 
  • You may have to register as a sex offender
  • You may have to enroll in sex offender classes 
  • Citizen's Guide to Child Pornography
  • In California, you may be fined up to $2500 for possession, and $2000 and/or 1 year of jail for distribution (California Child Pornography Law)

What else can be affected by inappropriate photos, posts, comments, or online bullying?

  • You can ruin or muddy your reputation.
  • People might not want to hire you because they think you're not professional or a good fit for the company.
  • You can get fired.
  • Your nudes can leak and it can be embarrassing for a long time.
  • Your angry or emotional posts or comments can be screenshotted and shared.
  • You can become a meme which can lead to out of control jokes or harassment.
  • You can get kicked out of school or lose scholarship opportunities for posting inappropriate things. 
  • People can take parts of your video and skew the truth. When it becomes viral, it will be difficult for you to defend yourself or share the truth.
  • It may ruin current and future relationships if certain parts of your life are displayed and people don't have context. 
Let me say it again: The internet is forever. 

10 Ways to Strengthen Your Online Footprint+

These tips can be useful for people of all ages, but I had young people in mind. There may be feelings or thoughts of invincibility and that our actions now don't have consequences, but they can and do. Please be mindful of your interactions online, especially if you want to have a career in certain industries when you're older. 

The difficult thing about being young and starting in the industry is thinking about how our actions will affect relationships with companies and colleagues in the future. The internet is forever. The things we post are forever. Take some time to figure out how you want to be seen by others, and how you want to be remembered.

1. Choose your words wisely

Even if you delete that angry tweet, snap, or comment, someone may have screenshotted it. Screenshots can be on the internet forever.

2. Stick with the facts

When we reply to others with strong opinions and accusations, it can lead to arguments where you or others attempt to damage one another’s reputations. Some people online go out of their way to message employers about unfavorable exchanges. This can risk your work as well as future prospects.

3. Be careful sharing images

Selfies are important. They are a part of the culture as well as a form of creativity and self expression. Companies have a brand to uphold. If and when your selfies don’t reflect the company culture, you may get fired or lose opportunities. Nudes, drunk outings, and reckless photos are inappropriate and difficult to undo.

4. Keep the politics out of your posts

Having our own personal beliefs and political views are important. It is a part of who you are. Some companies and potential referrals tend to stay neutral. To collaborate with these organizations and people, making sure your political posts are private can help. It can even be recommended to remove all politics from your posting.

5. Be professional

  1. Stay away from slander or gossip. Even if it’s true, these behaviors are paired with how people first see you. Again, a company prefers to hire someone who promotes community, not gossip.

  2. Sick days: If you are sick, posting images of your vacation sends a message that you are not reliable, and lack integrity. Be mindful of how you’re using your time away from school or work!

6. Instagram can ruin your reputation

Companies, recruiters, and referrals can search your likes, comments, and Instagram history to get a feel for your personality. If they find unfavorable posts or images, even from years ago, it can cost you a dream job.

7. Look back on past history

Go back through your old posts, likes, and images. Delete what you don’t want to be known for in the professional world. It can be tiresome and repetitive to do this, but think about your future and the work you’ve put in to your career. It is worth curating your old posts to be successful, and to be seen as a competent professional. If you get sentimental about older posts and images, save them on your computer.

8. Tag you’re it!!!! Don’t be tagged!

Untag yourself from posts that could be misinterpreted by companies. It’s more difficult now since technology can automatically tag your face in images online, so take time to ask friends not to post inappropriate images of you in the first place. It’s okay to ask them not to tag you in certain types of posts as well.

9.  If you’re not sure what to delete…

Look at social media of people you admire, as well as peers who are successful in the industry. See how they present themselves and think of how you can do the same.

10. Shut down all of your social media and start new!

If your history is too much to sort through, you have the luxury of time to delete your accounts now and start over. It can be a fresh start to figure out how you want to present yourself online and to the world. Your past will not define you or your future success.

Additional Tips on Social Media

  • Say NO to drunk posting.
    • Have a friend hold your phone or plan ahead.
  • Take a deep breath, count down 5 seconds before pressing send.
  • Just like IRL arguments, pause before posting or commenting. We say things we can’t take back when we’re emotional
  • Apologize for making mistakes, and move on.
  • Sometimes it’s easier to start with nothing than to filter through years of content. Starting over now will save you from losing that dream job because of an Instagram post.
  • Think about what you want to stand for as a professional and a brand NOW.
    • Which five words does your social media convey?
    • If these words don’t match your desired brand message, change something.
  • If you are unsure of posting something, ask a trusted friend to look it over. If you need to vent, call someone so it’s not permanently online.