Is Your Social Media Presence Hurting You?

Social media has long been stealing countless hours from people worldwide, but other than that loss of efficiency, it is also a harbor for self-sabotage.

Recently, I was asked how much I would charge to “clean-up” someone’s social media accounts. Generally speaking, this can be a steep order, and while I know I’m capable of doing it, this job is simply something that is better done by a machine. As I am writing this, I am testing that principle. My personal social media accounts are being scanned (on the free level) by Brand Yourself.

Checking Social Media with a robot?

Given their parameters, I know it’s likely that my accounts will be flagged as moderate to high risk because I have been involved in writing and editing political material for years. But, I may or may not be concerned about those posts because they were primarily job related. I have a real reason for them being there, beyond just spouting off about my personal opinions on controversial matters.

If I am brutally honest, my personal political beliefs aren’t really out in the wild anyway, because I am a writer. While I have agreed at least in part with just about everything I’ve written over the years, I have never written everything I believe. Writing is my job, and I provide content that my respective target audiences want, whether that’s pleasing editors and publishers, or readers. Even my own personal sites are weighted toward a target, as opposed to being purely my own thoughts.

What the robot sawmisbehaving at work or your day trip when you called in sick.

How do you fix your social media?

Until Mark Zuckerberg and the rest of the social media moguls decide to add a search mechanism for users to scrub their own profiles, your choices for clearing out questionable social media posts are fairly limited.

1. Do it yourself

This is the hardest, and most time-consuming option, especially if you’ve been on social media for years. That is assuming that you are going to choose to keep your histories intact. If you’re not worried about losing piles of posts, doing it yourself might be acceptable, if you’re going to cross your fingers and hope that deletion or lock-down of archives will keep those questionable comments you made off a potential employer’s monitor. Or, you can opt for “start from scratch”, kill your accounts, and avoid questionable content going forward.

2. Use a service

Try Brand Yourself, or any of the other scrubbing services out there. If money is no object, you can post to freelancer job boards to find someone to do it by hand.

3. Quit social media for good, mostly

This one is an option for people who seriously think that they need to get away from social media altogether. You still should have at least a professional profile somewhere like LinkedIn, which would obviously be entirely work related. The same rules would apply if you would opt to create new accounts on other networks. Arguably, this is the nuclear option, usually employed by people who already have been burned.

How to keep it clean

Obviously, if you go to the trouble of fixing your social media so it’s job search ready, you don’t want to sabotage yourself again. Remember which areas you had a problem with before. If you were posting pictures of your weekly binge drinking, stop sharing them – for that matter, stop creating photographic evidence. You couldn’t resist getting into political arguments? If you must, type up your thoughts on your Notepad, and don’t save it. Get it out of your system privately.

Your rule of thumb is simple. Don’t post anything online that you couldn’t say openly in a highly professional environment. Note that I said “highly professional” there, not your personal work environment. What might be acceptable in your current workplace could be completely unacceptable in a new one. At all costs, definitely avoid posting things that could get you fired, like political, racist or sexist comments, to name a few.

Also, learn what human resources people should know about firing people for social media posts. Do not view that information as a way to determine how far you can push the limits – that is just begging for problems. Yes, you should know your rights as an employee, but no you shouldn’t view them as something to save you when you know you’re doing something you shouldn’t.

Finally, do not fall into the trap of thinking that you have First Amendment rights in the workplace. You don’t, period, full stop. The First Amendment only protects people from the government silencing them. Do not forget that all actions have consequences, and if you’re not prepared to face them, it is best to avoid doing those actions. There are more than enough cat videos to go around. Share those freely!

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