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Think, THEN Post.

Odds are, if you have any type of social media account online, you know the problems associated with it. Scrolling down a newsfeed for just a few minutes, and you will almost certainly come across questionable material. Whether it is a vulgar status update, or a racy photo, social networking sites can be outlets for a variety of negative content. Although technology as a whole has brought many positive affects to society, it has also brought a host of harmful consequences that are easy to overlook. The popularity of social networking Internet sites has changed the dynamic of content sharing and online reputations in ways that cannot yet be understood.
It’s a known fact that the Internet is full of content. According to Eric Schmidt, the former CEO of Google, “every two days, people are now creating as much information as was created, in total, between the beginning of time and 2003”. This may seem shocking, but spend a few hours on the internet and this statement will seem very true. And that content can be created by virtually anyone with internet access, which is a large percentage of the population. Technological advances become accessible to larger groups as the cost of technology decreases. As more and more electronic devices are developed, they continually become less expensive, thus becoming available to larger portions of the population. Whether it is a blog, Facebook post, tweet, or YouTube video, content is being created at alarming rates, and many of their authors don’t properly consider the repercussions of such creations before sharing them with the online world. Even President Barack Obama advised us to "be careful what you post on Facebook… it will be pulled up later in your life”. This is entirely true. What comes to mind is an alternative to the old saying, “What Happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas”. This cliché quote is no longer accurate. A more accurate version would read, “What Happens in Vegas ends up on Facebook”. Those of us born in this digital age have become so accustomed to managing our online lives that we tend to forget how public they really are. A picture or a post shared now can come back to haunt you later on in life, even if you think it has been deleted. This statement is clearly evident in the dynamics of social networking sites and future employment opportunities.
Many people become aware of the risks questionable online actions after it is too late. The consequences of posting controversial or offensive online content can be a crucial part of employment opportunities. According to Kate Lorenz, an editor at Career Builder.com, what you post online is being used by companies to gather a first impression of you and will be a large contributing factor as to whether or not you will be hired. Future employers, college admissions officers, and even dates are bound to search the internet for information on you. The main problem with this is twofold, sometimes the information found through a simple Google search is false, and other times it is just not becoming and something you wish to remain private. Either way, that information will most likely be found by many people and used to judge you, despite its actual validity. Simply “liking” a page on Facebook that might be slightly offending or vulgar can have a host of consequences and paint you in an unflattering ligt. The accumulation of your digital content can be lumped together under the label of your “Permanent Record”. No longer is this phrase a fictional file in your principal’s filing cabinet. There is now a record of all your online activities somewhere within the vast expanse of the World Wide Web (Permanent Record 1). This point is further expanded upon in “The Internet is Your Permanent Record”: Youthful indiscretions that in the past might only have existed in the memories of people who were there, or in blurry, easily destroyed Polaroids, are now posted online and broadcast to the world. Even if they are taken down, cached versions of web pages can still be viewed, copied, and re-posted. Images and text can be copied and re-posted. Even corrupted and deleted files can be easily retrieved.The content that constitutes the online records of so many internet users is constantly being expanded, and few people really understand the importance of their online trail. The days of privacy and forgotten mistakes are in many ways a part of the past.

There are many aspects of content sharing to take into consideration, but how can we take care to protect our digital reputations? There are many ways to change the way we appear online. The easiest way to maintain a positive online profile is to simply be careful. The easiest way to prevent a negative online image is to not create any negative content. Think twice before uploading or posting anything that might come back to haunt you later. Before you choose to share something, ask yourself, “Why am I posting this?” or “Why do I have this profile in the first place?” (Ivester 56). Outlining your values and reasons for using social media will make it easier for you to choose how to craft your online reputation. If you need drastic measures, there are companies out there who you can pay that will help improve your online reputation for you. According to their website, Reputation.com has a philosophy that, “everyone should be able to control his or her own online reputation, and all the private data that includes. We’ll help you take back the reins". These companies make it their mission to help individuals and businesses protect, or change their online reputations. Although there is some debate as to whether or not these companies are completely ethical, the fact of the matter is that they do exist, and they are providing a helpful service to many people who wish to repair their online image.

Throughout the past few years, social networking websites have skyrocketed in popularity. With their creation came an array of positive affects and a variety of changes to social dynamics. The way that information is shared will never be the same. Your reputation is now divided into two worlds, your online image, and your offline image. Social media has complicated the way in which we view ourselves and our peers. As technology evolves, such social dynamics also must evolve. It is our duty as citizens of this digital age to educate ourselves and adapt to such changes, and make the most out of the opportunities available to us. But the best advice of all is simple: Think. Consider the repercussions of your posts and other online actions before you present them. Before you hit that “send” button, imagine all the possible outcomes, and if it is questionable, just don’t post you. Think THEN Post.





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