Internet Etiquette: Cultivating Your Online Image

Ok now that we’ve discussed duller (but no less important!) topics such as email etiquette, now it’s time for the fun stuff, cultivating your online image!

Just as you dress yourself up day after day with the intention of crafting a certain “look” you’ll want to do the same for your online appearance. In fact, your online appearance may even call for more attention as it’s something that will be around long term. Unless someone is following you around with a camera in real life (darn those pesky paparazzi) then you have the freedom to update and alter your look while easily forgetting (and letting others forget) your past faux pas.

But on the digital stage, every “faux pas” or undesired look has the potential of being forever immortalized. Even if you’ve dragged it to the trash there’s no guarantee someone didn’t make a copy or take a sneaky screenshot of a particular photo.

So… even though it’s healthiest to be natural and live life freely it’s wise to remember that everything you put out there, everything, will reflect back on you and your image. Yes image is a superficial thing but we’re human after all and humans judge. I’m not saying lie about who you are or create a falsified carefully crafted image. Only that you should consider how what you put out will reflect back on how you’re percieved.

Profile Photos:

Profile photos are the digital version of first impressions. Whether on social media, a bio or any online account the profile photo is usually the first image someone sees in association with you. That being said, you want to take care with the photo you choose. Try to select one that is clear, high resolution, a clean appropriate background and if able professionally taken. As we discussed in the last lesson professional photos can make a world of difference when it comes to your online image. By having a couple high quality photos you can instantly upgrade any online profile. It’s perfectly fine to add some candid, casual shots to your digital publicity, but stepping forward with a beautifully polished photo will create an elegant, strong, and professional impact.

Photos and Videos:

For all other photos (and videos) you don’t have to go crazy trying to make them super professional, but you do want to thoughtfully consider each one you share. They don’t have to be prize winning images, but you don’t want to share something that’s ultra blurry or low quality. You also want to reflect on if it’s appropriate in terms of subject, style and language if there’s audio.

Written Word:

Think about everything you’ve ever written online. Status updates, tweets, intsagram captions, hashtags, blog posts, youtube comments. Of course you can’t possibly sift through every word you’ve ever written, or even have the ability to alter/delte them if you did. But anywhere you have control, your own websites, social media accounts etc. then go through and review what you’ve written. Does it reflect you’re authentic personality? Does it reflect the personality you wish to portray? Are there inappropriate or undesirable words you wish you hadn’t used? If so, edit or delte them.

Going forward,carefully think through everything you write from now on. Making sure it not only represents you, but is not vulgar, mean spirited or embarrassing.

Interviews, Bio’s, Articles:

Sometimes information is out there that you unfortunately don’t have control over. For example, perhaps you’ve been interviewed or maybe someone has written an article about you or your work. Of course if something is defaming your character you have grounds for removal, but in many cases there’s nothing you can do. If you didn’t put it up it will be harder to get it taken down. If there’s something you really don’t like then it never hurts to politely ask for some alterations. Whether it’s a photo swap or a detail that’s untrue or embarrassing. Sometimes people don’t know they’ve offended or done you wrong. Of course not everyone will so willingly comply to your requests, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.

To avoid any potential issues always be mindful of who you speak with, and what you agree to be part of and have written about you. Always tread carefully when giving interviews or writing articles that you will have no future control over.

Don’t Overshare:

Whether it’s words you write, or photos and videos you publish, avoid oversharing. This means both in the sense of your private life and in pure volume. You don’t won’t to reveal anything too personal that you may later regret and in most cases, it’s just inappropriate. You also don’t want to overwhelm you readers or followers with too much content. Of course some platforms are made for sharing more than others, but unless it’s for business, oversharing can come across as desperate, like you have nothing better to do with your day. It may also become annoying or boring for your audience.

You can be a multifaceted powerful woman without having to share every last side of yourself with the world. A bit of mystery is always a plus.

Be Selective of Where You Show Yourself:

Sometimes less is more when it comes to online presence. Yes you must be online, if you have no online presence whatsoever people will not trust you, they may even second your status as a human being. That being said, it’s not always helpful or even recommend to inhabit every corner of the internet. Thoughtfully select which platforms you wish to be a part of. Consider whether you can realistically maintain your presence and image. If you have halfway filled out profiles scattered across the internet it will make you look flighty and unserious. And unless you’re job is requiring you to achieve digital fame being a part of every last website and media group can appear like you have no “real” life. You want to strike the right balance.

It doesn’t mean you must avoid sites, you can still Instagram stalk without having your own unmanicured account. And if you really want to take part without “committing” then consider a completely private account,  that only you and your closest friends are privy to.

Consider the Whole Picture:

Think of your online image as a whole, comprising of every social media account, every article, interview and video that may be out there. It should all add up to a somewhat cohesive image. Of course everyone has different interests and faces they may portray, but you want to avoid having completely contradicting information out there. For instance having a twitter account where you constantly blast snarky yet humorous political comments won’t align with you’re public instagram account dedicated to zen living.

Don’t fret if something “undesirable” is already out there. We all make mistakes, or rather, simply put something out there without thinking it through. It could even have been from a time before we realized the staying power of the internet. Don’t obsess or worry about the past, going forward simply consider how what you put out will contribute to the overall image.

 

Now that you know the tips I suggest skimming through your online image and pruning what’s already out there. Alter, delete, and edit anything that doesn’t add up to the image you wish to portray. Whether it’s embarrassing Facebook photos from 2007 or a cringeworthy blog post or tweet that looking back now, shouldn’t have made the cut. I recommend saving these things privately for your own amusing and educational value. After all, they’re part of you story, they helped create the lady you are today. But as we’ve said, not everything has to be shared. Some things are for laughing or cringing at in private.

HOMEWORK: Take on the task of skimming through your online image and pruning everything to perfection. Update your profile photos if needed, delete or edit silly or stupid tweets and posts. Really consider how you want to come across and alter your content so that it corresponds with that image.

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