Net Game: Protecting and Promoting Your Online Identity


A couple of weeks ago, the Business Insider published an article expressing the widespread public disapproval of Facebook’s “Timeline” feature. The cause of this outrage was a rumor that claimed the new Timeline exposes users’ once-private messages from when they first joined the network.

Facebook denied such a glitch, reasoning that the rumor likely stemmed from users who were appalled by the discovery of (public) wall posts from years past. The example here reveals a problem that has launched an  industry dedicated entirely to protecting people’s online identities.

“Anything that you click or type can and is being recorded in some way,” King’s student (’16) and I.T. specialist Cody Striplin said. Striplin explained that something as simple as a Facebook “like” can relay a candidate’s personality to potential employers.

While activities such as internships, volunteer efforts and travel are looked upon favorably, things such as drinking, illicit drug use and vulgar language can hinder many who would otherwise be seen as respectable candidates from advancing in the corporate world. Poor spelling and grammar are additional factors that root out incompetent applicants.

A new market designed to help employers track prospective employees has birthed websites like Jobvite, which in a recent survey revealed that 92 percent of employers plan to recruit via social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. With Internet recruiting on the rise, an additional market has opened up for online identity protection. Popular conferences such as the Reputation Management Summit aim to educate employers about how to protect their businesses’ reputations and how to seek reputable employees.

More people are seeking professional help to build and sculpt their “online brand”—the accumulated image portrayed through one’s affiliation with various online sites and profiles. Everyone has an online brand, and it’s important for individuals to familiarize themselves with their personal web content; it’s as simple as typing a name into Google.

Adam Brill (’13), also involved with I.T. at King’s, noted that it is important to strike a balance with regard to one’s online persona.

“Employers look for professionalism, but you don’t want to be perceived as a robot,” Brill said, explaining that people needn’t be paranoid, but a certain amount of caution (such as turning privacy settings all the way up) is wise. He added, “If you are saying crude or mean things about people, especially about a company you are working for, that is always a warning sign for employers.”

Brill suggested an alternative: “Wouldn’t it be easier to just aim at being honorable and forthright on-or-offline?”

“A lot of the things that people have to watch out for, I feel, do not apply to most King’s students. Most King’s students are pretty well-behaved,” Brill said, referring to pictures and language posted on online profiles. In his opinion, the best way to protect yourself and build a great reputation in general (online or otherwise) is to value good character and strive to better yourself in every way possible.

In the midst of this recent explosion of online security and public concern, there is no need to feel hopeless. Nick Bilton of the New York Times once called the Internet a “permanent record of our past [that] never forgets anything posted online.” Rather than hiding, it is better to embrace the opportunity to use the Internet as a way to bolster your online brand.