Yesterday I attended an “emerging leaders” workshop at which we discussed personal branding. Toward the end of the meeting, as we spoke about the image you portray and the message you send through what you publish about yourself online, I had an epiphany.
I was concerned about how to balance what I post online for my friends to see versus what I would want a client or work associate to see. The seminar presenter, Tora Brown, posed a question to me that hit me like a ton of bricks, “How does the videos and pictures you post online for your friends to see benefit you?” As I let this question percolate in my brain, I realized that the potential damage of clients and colleagues seeing silly pictures or video of me online is much greater than any benefit I receive from putting them on the web.
In fact, I can’t think of any real benefit from publishing such things online! The only thing I can think of that motivates the posting of endless pictures of last weekends party or whatever activity you deem post-worthy, is the narcissistic desire to reflect on how cool you are, or how interesting your life is, and to show that to others. If anyone can think of any other reason to post more than a handful of pictures to provide a snapshot of who you are, one that you’re comfortable for everyone in the world to see, I would love to hear them. Mind you, don’t waste my time with, “because it’s fun” or “because I can”…I’m looking for good reasons and benefits.
One thing I think people often forget when they portray themselves online is that the internet is non-differential toward setting or circumstance. In other words, while some things may be appropriate in some settings, the same thing may not be in a different setting. The people who know you from all different settings and circumstances (work, church, school, social, etc.) go online and see whatever you’ve posted in the context of the setting in which they know you. For example, a client for which I’m trying to list their 20 million dollar property will see the same goofy video I posted for my long time buddy to enjoy.
Also it’s important to remember that people introduce others into their life in bite-size pieces. That is the natural progression of any relationship. Therefore, a long time colleague or client who has gotten to know you on a more personal level, can appreciate and handle seeing a silly posting of yourself, and still take you seriously and trust that you can do the job. In contrast, a recently met potential client or employer who is still trying to feel you out, will likely make a judgment (fair or not) from what they see online after googling your name.
For the many reasons listed above, I recently went through my online content and purged many pointless, and potentially harmful, videos and pictures. Please realize I still recognize there are many benefits to being on Facebook or having a YouTube account…I just feel there is also a risk often not recognized by us Y generation kids. I recommend everyone review what they’ve posted online and reflect on if you’re prepared for everyone in the world to see it.