The Internet is Forever

Every social media post leaves a lasting impression. Status updated, tweets and retweets, and even articles we like all become part of our social media footprint.  Now more than ever, we need to be careful about the digital footprint we leave behind.  Because once it’s out there, it’s out there in some form or another, FOREVER.

Your digital footprint tells the story of who you are…and more importantly, how you seem to others.  If you are only posting positive, upbeat posts then the world will be under the impression that you are a happy, well-adjusted person. Who doesn’t love watching kittens snuggling with baby squirrels!   If you tweet irate, profanity laced rants that will be your online persona.  Neither of these may be true, but that is how it will come across.

A Social Media Post Can Change Your Life, and Not for the Better

A Florida middle school teacher, Dayanna Volitich, ran a white nationalist podcast.  She changed her name but posted her picture and even discussed hiding her racist views from other teachers, administrators and parents with the intent to covertly spread her message to future generations.  She deleted the posts after the story broke.  However, since it was posted on many major news sites, that legacy will live on.   As of March 5, 2018, Mrs. Volitich has been removed from her classroom.

You may think it’s no big deal to post drunken pictures of yourself posing with giant pot plants you have grown yourself on Instagram or Snapchat, (#expertgardener). And your friends may agree with you.  If you ever want a respectable job with a company that has a working computer, think twice before posting it.  The average millennial will take 25,700 selfies throughout their lives, according to a 2015 study by Luster Premium White, a Boston-based maker of teeth-whitening products.  Whether you modify and perfect each image, or just snap and post, those pictures are declaring who you are!  Nobody wants their kindergarten teacher, daycare worker, or even executive assistant to be an alcoholic exhibitionist.  This is what that topless Mardis Gras picture you posted says about you.

Watch Your Selfies, You Are Your Own Brand

Author Martha Collier, whom Forbes listed as one of the Top women social influencers, suggests that even though selfies might seem eccentric or narcissistic, people should put serious thought into the selfies and other social media commentary they post.  Collier said every individual should consider himself or herself a brand when it comes to social media.

Aside from the obvious social and economic effects your digital footprint can have for you, consider that law enforcement will absolutely use technological resources to catch criminals in the act.  Entire units are now devoted to tracking down sex criminals, drug traffickers, and even minor parole violators.  Similarly, if you are thinking of claiming an injury for the purposes of claiming insurance or workman’s comp, it’s best not to post pictures or status updates referencing your “epic” ski trip or European backpacking trip.

Think Before You Post, Especially When Kids Are Involved

These are lessons we should teach our children and practice for their sake.  Think before you post a picture of your child, “is this something I would want a stranger to get a hold of?”  Will my child be happy with me when they grow up and this is out there?  If you wouldn’t want your information shared with the world, how is it fair to your kid to post ANYTHING about them before they are old enough to give permission.  Consider that the combination of photos and comments give children an identity.  That identity can leave an impression for others even if the child does not have a social media account.  A survey of 2,000 parents by The Parent Zone showed the average parent will post nearly 1,000 photos of their child online before the child is 5 years old, according to Market Watch.

The Internet has made sharing yourself with others so simple. It’s easy to forget that it is a created reality.  You only have control BEFORE you hit send, or post, and then it is out there forever.  Taking an extra second to consider “Is this something that will prevent me from having the life I want?” is just common sense.  So, take a deep breath before you post that picture of you streaking down main street with nothing but your purple sneakers…especially if you think you might like any career in law enforcement someday.