Friday, March 8, 2013

Letter from the editor: Personal public relations for the college student

by Kelsey Hilmes, A&E Editor
Various researchers estimate there are somewhere between 4,000 and 300,000 social networks available. With the rise and fall of these different platforms, our generation of Internet users is likely the first to be actively taught to be cautious about what we put on the Internet.

We have all heard the long-winded speeches and read the articles about people getting fired for something that was found on their Facebook wall — or even Myspace in the day.

Defending privacy, even in a world where privacy simply doesn’t exist anymore, is still discussed at length.

Facebook has recently amped up its privacy settings, but it’s too little too late.

About one week ago, Facebook Director of Product Blake Ross announced he was leaving the company because his friend’s teenage son said the site was uncool.

In fact, it seems like our peers just five to seven years younger than us are no longer interested in Facebook.

With the rise of the smart phone, we are offered infinite social networks at our fingertips.

Commonplace touchscreen technology, Windows 8 and apps are radically transforming the way we connect online.

With the ever-evolving world of social media, it’s harder each day to protect your personal image online.

More outlets potentially result in more problems.

Here are my thoughts on how to maintain your wholesome online image in a changing online landscape.

1. Wait for the bandwagon.

If you’ve ever browsed the app store’s social media collection, you’ve seen the obscure apps with three or four reviews on them.

Waiting to sign up for the social networks that prove to be useful, fun and trustworthy will keep you from discovering any unpleasant surprises in the privacy policy. Not to mention a social network without people you know on it isn’t nearly as fun.

2. Control what your name renders on Google searches.

Put positive information out there. If you have an unusual name — like Hilmes, for example — tracking what Google says about you is vital because you show up in the first few results.

Put your professional side first to help keep anything that might be unseemly out of sight.

When you Google yourself, make sure that if you are the one appearing on the screen, it’s your LinkedIn profile or professional portfolio.

3. Use an alias.

While this just seems like common sense, too many students Instagram drunk photos under their real name.

While it’s embarrassing to use "catluver4lyfe" as your email address, it might be a better Twitter handle than your full name if you post potentially inappropriate things that you wouldn’t want future employers to see.

4. Keep track of your accounts and watch for the bad guys.

If you ever made fleeting use of Google+ or put pictures on Picasa, you’ve seen how quickly privacy requests get ignored.

When you go to delete an account, do your best to delete all of the content on it in addition to the account itself.

Often accounts on sites like WordPress are deleted, but the link will still show up in Google along with the old content, and you can’t log in anymore to take the content off.

While there are numerous benefits to social networking, the important thing to remember is that whatever goes on the Internet stays there.

So check your privacy settings, hesitate to make new accounts and play it safe.