When is the last time you Googled yourself? If it’s been awhile, take a minute right now and do so. What comes up when you search your name? It may sound like a strange, slightly narcissistic thing to do, but that first page of ten or so articles, websites and videos that is generated in less than a second is what defines you. It defines you to a future employer or somebody who wants the inside scoop on who you are and how you present yourself to the world.
As millennials raised largely in a world of the Internet and the growing network of social media sites, this discussion of our “virtual presence” is nothing new. We’ve sat through the classroom discussions regarding how Facebook will ruin our chances of being taken seriously, or having to listen to our grandparents’ disgust over tweeting what we ate for breakfast. Typically, what we’ve been advised (largely by people who don’t understand social media) is to shut it down and walk away, that leaving our lives off of the Internet is what’s best if we want a successful future.
But is removing yourself altogether from Google search results the smartest move to make? Probably not. Instead, you should learn to control what you upload and to effectively contribute to the World Wide Web.
First, determine your audiences of each of your social media sites. Maybe your Facebook page is meant for family and friends. If so, set your privacy settings to reflect that. Your profile photo is available to everyone, so be certain that it is a photo that properly reflects the type of person you want to be seen as by anybody searching your name. If you list your Twitter handle on your resume or business cards, you can assume that certain professionals in your field will be checking your profile. Refrain from using offensive language and uploading images from last Saturday night’s party. Instead, retweet articles that relate to your major and post interesting content.
That is likely the most important part of your virtual presence: content. Content is any material that you share online. Content created by someone else means they took time to write down their thoughts or ideas and publish it to a blog or news site. We can assume they are an expert in their field (even if that’s just an expert on their own opinions) and contributed content to the Internet instead of perpetually sharing the photos, videos, articles or tweets of someone else. You should strive to be an expert in something and become a content creator. Give others something to reblog, repost or repin and have it source back to you.
Another note is to not just become a character censored for the Internet. You’re still a person and even Google-searching employers are looking for some sense of a personality. Maybe they are like our grandparents and don’t care about what we ate for breakfast, but posting an appropriate image from your last vacation or occasionally commenting on popular culture is encouraged.
And finally, keep an eye on your consistency. If the last time you tweeted or uploaded an image to Instagram was 4 months ago, the followers you’ve earned will lose interest. It will be hard to judge the relevancy of your comments if your Facebook becomes as vacant as your middle school Myspace page.
You can ultimately decide if having a clean and work appropriate social media presence is important to you. If so, determine your audience for each platform, review your privacy settings, manage your consistency and quality of posts and become an expert on something! Don’t become unsearchable, but instead give users something to find. Now start creating, archiving and reflecting on information you find interesting. And in return, others will find you interesting, too.
Glenn Madigan is a senior at Columbia College Chicago studying Advertising Art Direction. He is originally from Bay City, Michigan and moved to Chicago, Illinois in 2009 to pursue a career in art and design. Glenn joined NSCS at the end of his freshman year and led his chapter as Executive Vice President (2010) and President (2011). Glenn is now serving his second term on the National Leadership Council, assuming the role of NLC President. He is incredibly proud of the work the 2012-2013 NLC has accomplished this year and is looking forward to even more projects and ideas that will benefit NSCS and its members.