Are you concerned whether or not you’ll get hired in the future? Wondering if a potential date will Google your name? Don’t care whether or not there might be legal repercussions to what you say? Well, great! If you don’t care what people read about you online, then you’re well on your way to ruining your online reputation. Here’s my top ten tips for tanking your online reputation indefinitely:
(1) Become a Member of the Grammar Police: Remember to correct grammar and spelling in every post, email, and comment you read–even people that have established reputations. Everybody loves to be corrected on their English, don’t you? Not only will you get the reputation as a know-it-all, but you’ll also be quickly recognized as a major pain-in-the-butt. Or, if you so choose, remember the phrase “when in Rome” and post exclusively in txt, LOL or l33t-speak.
(2) Take Credit for Other People’s Work: Feel free to avoid referencing, linking or crediting the content you’re publishing on your own site. Sure, there’s so much content on the internet that no one will ever know if you plagiarize, right? And who knows? Other people may notice what you’ve done and start talking about it. Free publicity!
(3) Claim you’re an Expert on Everything (Even When You’re Not One): Be sure to speak to your vast and impressive background of experiences whenever possible. This is especially true if you don’t have any experiences (or proof) that you are knowledgeable in the subject you’re talking about.
(4) Be “the” Internet War Guru: Start flame wars by calling a fellow poster an [insert word] here. The fastest way to tank your reputation online is to start an argument with someone over the [topic of your choice], so start early and fight often. Forum posts and email are great vehicles for flame wars, because other people who don’t even belong to the forums (or know you personally) can read what you wrote. Fantastic!
(5) Put Other People Down to Get Visits: Promote your site and get more traffic by telling other people how much they suck. This is a great way to get traffic to your own site. Simply, all you have to do is comment on as many blogs and websites as possible, trashing what they’ve done and telling people where they should go–to your domain.
(6) Demand Admin Rights Everywhere you Can: This is especially true if you comment on people’s personal blogs. Do you feel you no longer need to be screened out on other people’s blogs or forums because you’re a frequent poster? Feel free to publicly demand Admin rights because you’re now entitled to the mysterious rank of community member. It’s totally okay to ignore the fact that the webmaster may have their own set of criteria, after all, by you posting you’re making their site worthwhile because you’ve added your two cents.
(7) End your Real-Life Relationships Online: Don’t want to deal with the hassles of breaking up with someone? Tired of hearing about someone’s cat? Why bother picking up the phone and telling them how you feel? In the age of the internet, breaking up with someone is just a click away. Just make sure you change all of your statuses to “single” and de-friend as many people associated with the person in question as soon as possible. Oh, and don’t forget to check your privacy filters: you wouldn’t want this person contacting you to figure out what’s going on with you, now would you?
(8) Ignore Other People’s Privacy at All Costs: Why bother waiting for the rumor mill? The quickest way to let everyone know someone else’s business is to make sure they’re included when they don’t need to be. So make sure you forward your disagreements, business transactions, sensitive emails, nude pictures and sob stories to people who don’t even know who you’re talking about! It’s great fun and everyone’s doing it! Also applies to inappropriately formatted “chain mails.”
(9) Divulge Everything Publicly: Are you depressed and on a multitude of antidepressants? Hate your employer and engaging them in a lawsuit? Don’t bother discussing your intimate details privately, be sure to post them for all the world to see. Never mind that your family/neighbors/friends/employers past, present and future can find them and read them. Expose yourself to the world and the world will love you, no matter what–right? Don’t forget to take extra liberties on the internet when you’re drunk, because alcohol is a great excuse for lots of things.
(10)Take your Real-Life Opinions and Post them Online: Hate your co-workers? Avoiding your best friend like the plague because you think she’s a slut? Why not get all of that angst off your chest and post about them online. Be sure to use big words like **shole and f**khead before you dive into a trail of filth professing to the world why your opinion matters.
Yes, You Do Leave an Internet Trail
I hate to point out the blatantly obvious in this post, but I can’t tell you how many times I come across professionals who break more than a few of these rules–and all at once. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t post responses when someone comes out and attacks your reputation, but there is a time and a place to address these sorts of things. Just because the internet is highly responsive to our needs, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t put the tiniest bit of thought into what you’re writing. Even if you screw up and make a mistake, if you publicly post a ruinous diatribe of words who knows who will have access to it. Remember, that there is absolutely nothing barring anyone else from reposting (or forwarding) what you’ve written.
The biggest thing that I see on a lot of forums and in chat rooms, are the people who forget that non-members can (and do) read their posts. Or how about the posters that don’t read the full thread and jump right into the middle, adding their two cents because that’s all they’ve had time for?
The point I’m trying to make here is please, read (and think) before you write. Your views may be “your views,” but by acting like you’re the only person who uses the internet, it may come back to haunt you.
Here are some recommended reads on this not-so-new topic of online reputation management, which is also known as online identity management. Many of these articles can be found through search engine marketing firms who either specialize in the subject or utilize it as a service. If the business world feels that this topic is essential to great customer service and professionalism, then why shouldn’t we? Feel free to add comments to share your views or add more resources.