Everything is fair game in the digital world. That topless photo an old boyfriend held onto, words you typed to a friend in college, a careless remark on Facebook. Heck, even pre-digital photos and letters can become digital with a quick "scan and send." SnapChat CEO Evan Spiegel is apparently a misogynist pig. Who knew? (Answer: one of his fraternity brothers who recently gave long-forgotten emails to a blogger)
There's a lesson here. A digital trail basically starts at birth - thanks to well-meaning parents who proudly post delivery room photos and adorable first time on the potty shots (Pun intended). Most people have a wel-documented life from the moment they enter the world until the moment they leave, complete with funeral and wake photos.
How can the average person take control of their image and digital life? It starts with being vigilant about what you type, who takes your picture and what you post to social networks. Here's a few suggestions that can be implemented right to take control of your public image.
- Take a step back and examine your beliefs. You're entitled to your opinion, but try not to be obnoxious about it.
- Facebook is an inappropriate venue for breakups, rants against your employer, etc. Friends may be sympathetic to your plight, but after two or three posts, take it offline. Nobody really wants a basket of your dirty laundry on their digital doorstep.
- Don't digitize anything that could portray you in a bad light. That includes email, photos or comments.
- Make sure you're not a troll. I'd define a troll as someone who hides behind their computer screen and unleashes unholy hell on friends and strangers alike.
- Controlling your image means that you have your faculties about you at all times. Do not allow anyone to take your photograph - especially in a compromising position - if you're not comfortable with it being splashed on The Drudge Report.
The internet can really bite you if you don't understand the repercussions of what's at stake. And it's not just posting on social nets. As Evan Spiegel found out, it can include email that you sent as a college student.