Your carbon footprint is something we have been aware of for many years now with lists upon lists of ways we can prevent further damage to the environment. But how many of us are keeping track of our digital footprint?
Do you still have embarrassing images floating around cyberspace that you thought – well hoped – had been erased from existence? Your digital footprint refers to all the personal data and information available about you online, whether that be your comments on others posts or your own – it can even include your emails and your IP address. Your digital footprint can have a lasting impact on your reputation, in both positive and negative ways. Having a positive digital footprint and engaging in communities you wish to work in, might open up more job opportunities and relationships with likeminded people. The opposite can be said if your online footprint shows hateful comments for example.
Having no social media presence has become so unusual nowadays that some of us find it to be a red flag – especially in the online dating game if you can’t find the person you are talking to on other platforms, many turn to ‘am I being catfished?’ In the age of technology, we expect to find at least one social media account per person, even if they only use a singular platform regularly. But that doesn’t mean we have to share every part of our lives online. There is a danger in oversharing online after all. Set your mind back to Netflix’s You and how much Joe was able to find just through looking you up on the internet.
Maybe when you were young, you created a separate twitter account, forgot the login and made a fresh start. But that account is still there, and very obviously you. After a date or job interview, people are likely to do a quick google search with your name, some prospective employers even ask for your social media handles these days. A short internet search on prospective employees has become central in the job world. Try googling yourself and take note of what comes up when you google your full name. Has an old account, embarrassing images shared by others, or a ten year old twitter status you no longer agree with popped up on your search? You can request to remove an old account through twitter support if you cannot reset your password to do it manually. You can set a google alert for your name, sending you alerts when a post is made online with your name – this can help you better manage what is said about you online and figure out what needs to go.
You can un-tag yourself in photos others have posted. While that might not erase the image, if it’s from someone else’s account there isn’t much you can do unless they are willing to make the post private or delete it entirely. But if you’ve outgrown the self in the photos, it’s best to remove it from your feed.
People are quick to share images online of their new partners these days, but what they often forget to do is delete the old photos from dead relationships. Imagine setting up a date with someone on Tinder to find their socials full of photos with their arm around someone else. It’s best to review your social media accounts for their privacy settings and whether or not you want to change them. And maybe review your old posts, do you still have photos tucked away in your social feed of your hated ex-partner on your socials?
You can make your Instagram, Facebook and Twitter private if that is easier for you. But maybe you want others to be able to see a little bit more than your username and profile photo.
If you are wanting to stand out online and your name is fairly common, what can you do to stand out from the crowd and make sure your social media profiles and your website are at the very top of google searches? Do you have a middle name you can use in your branding or maybe creating a pen/stage name might work best for you.
We’ve all seen sites asking you to accept or decline their cookies to sell your information to advertisers. Ever clicked on a clothing site to then have adverts from them on your Facebook homepage? Opting out of cookies can help protect your data – Google ads settings has a section where you can force Google to not send you personalised advertisements.
But your digital footprint can also be used by hackers, criminals and scam artists. Identity theft is one of the more known ways in which your digital footprint can be used by scam artists and hackers – especially if your passwords are easier to guess. Criminals can sometimes uncover enough information about a person online to target them for fraud – they can pose as someone you know and threaten to leak information unless a fee is paid. You can also be a target of this if your friends and coworkers’ digital footprint reveals too much about them and their lives.
If you are wanting to engage in online forums and comment on posts, it might be best to create an email for this purpose rather than using your primary email address. That way, people can’t uncover comments you left on posts years and years ago. It is important to have separate email accounts for your personal and private life – not only does it create a distinct difference between what professionals will look for when contacting you, important work emails won’t be lost under your personal newsletter emails.
It is mindful to consider what you post online, whether it is appropriate and if you’ll regret posting it in the morning once the alcohol haze goes away.
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