Four Risks of Avoiding an Online Presence

Goldfish in fishbowl staring at girl making fish face

I read this line on Twitter a few days ago:

“If you wanna stay private, don’t go online.”

So… just keep off the Internet if you don’t want to feel like you’re in fishbowl, being gawked at by unknown numbers of strangers. And that choice will have no negative impact, right?

Uh, wrong. Like virtually every other decision you make in life, you face risks if you don’t act, as well. Here are four risks you take by not setting up online profiles on key social media outlets:

1. Not being found. You might be thinking, “That’s OK. I don’t need to be found because I am happy in my job.” But is it always going to be that way? Changes at the office (a new boss, a redesign of positions) can impact how you feel about your work. Or, say the company is sold; you could find yourself out of a job because the new owners are eliminating the positions that are identical to the ones they already have. How smart is it to be invisible?

Popping on the scene “when you need it” isn’t a good strategy, either. If you come out like gangbusters the moment after you decide to switch jobs, it will be rather apparent that you are being opportunistic and focused only on your needs. Not exactly a good way to draw people to you.

2. Not appearing up-to-date. Social media, in one form or another, is here to stay. It is the exception, not the rule, to be completely offline. If your profile can’t be found anywhere, you give off the impression that you don’t keep up with trends. Folks could also apply this assumption to your career; whether it’s true or not doesn’t matter, but it can happen.

3. Mistaken identity. In what was an extreme case of mistaken identity, an 18-year-old went online and discovered that he was wanted for murder — and his picture was associated with the story. If you want to get a general idea of your name doppelgangers who are online, just Google your name in quotes (“Jane Doe”). After looking at the results, ask yourself, “Do I really want to be mistaken for this person?” Even if they haven’t committed murder, the answer is likely, “No.”

4. Someone else telling your story. Just because you decide that you are not going to be online doesn’t mean that you aren’t already. Think about your friends and family who post pictures on Facebook. Do you know if you have been tagged in them? Do you know if the pictures have been kept private? Do you know every person they are friends with? Would you want those images to be associated with you?

Or what about a co-worker who writes a blog. Say he says something about a situation that involves you. Sure, it’s not professional and could cost him his job, but the bigger issue here is the impact it could have on you. If there is nothing else online that shows a different side of you or that can drive down the place that this item would have on a Google search, this could be the only thing that people know about you. Be online so you can exert more control over telling your own story.

Have you jumped into social media, or are you keeping your toes out of it? What is motivating your decision?

Image courtesy of Dean McCoy

Does this article resonate with you? Imagine what could happen if I was working for you and your career!

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Comments

  1. You can’t control your on-line presence but you can manage it. Social Web is about managing as none of us have control. Get out there and stop saying ‘you want to have face to face connections’! That is fear talking.

    • Melissa Cooley
      Twitter: TheJobQuest
      says:

      I agree about the impossibility of maintaining complete control of your online presence, Kimba. There’s too many voices, and in them, there’s bound to be some that aren’t complimentary. That’s the way it is anywhere you go, online and offline. But people can have some control over their story by being active in the places where the conversations about them are happening.

      There is great value in the in-person interactions. But if that’s the only way people insist on connecting, they are missing out on the potential that online conversations bring.

  2. Very much agree with Kimba! Control is the key. You might want to look at http://www.resumenet.net as an example.

  3. Ryan Sauers
    Twitter: ryansauers
    says:

    This is a great post and right on the money. Your BRAND and personal positioning is everything and is the very DNA of why you– well are — you! Thanks! Ryan Sauers http://www.ryansauersblog.com

    • Melissa Cooley
      Twitter: TheJobQuest
      says:

      Thanks for stopping by, Ryan!

      I would actually argue that an authentic personal brand is the essence of a person’s being, but positioning has more to do with where a person can be found and how clearly the brand is conveyed. Just my take on it :)

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