Every now and then I’ll come home and find my roommate distracted by Facebook. I always expect her to be creeping on a cute guy or scanning through status updates, but nearly every single time I see her computer screen she’s staring at her own profile instead. When her own pictures, wall posts, and “About Me” section are spread across the screen I always wonder, “Why is she looking at herself? Narcissism maybe? Why would anyone need to look at their own Facebook profile?”
It took me awhile to figure it out; she was carefully and consistently maintaining her online reputation. The way she does it is like lightning. She clicks through her profile photos spending less than a second on each one. Sometimes I’ll see her slow down for a moment to delete a comment from a friend or hide a post. Taking Madden and Smith’s article into consideration, I have to ask, “Is creating our online identity just a matter of hiding certain things from some people, all while posting it for some others to see?”
With more youth monitoring how they portray themselves on the Internet, it’s surprising when we see some of the shocking, news worthy examples of poor online reputation management:
Notice the dates? It happens pretty frequently.
Examples like these create more questions than they could possibly ever answer, but do you think these people were considering the consequences of how their thoughts and feelings would be portrayed?
A big picture I got from the reading is that people post on social media networks for specific audiences. These disgruntled employees were most likely ranting not only to get their frustration out, but also to appeal to certain individuals who may have been able to relate to them. While plotting to burn down a boss’ house is a crime, other online self-portrayals are simply not intended for all to see.
Examples like these again make me wonder about my roommate and her online portrayal. “Is she hiding certain things from me? Is she hiding the things that I do see on her profile from some other people?”
Overall, I think online reputation management is based on how well one can hide things from people. It’s a tricky game though, hiding from some people while trying to reach out and communicate with others through the same social media network. I’m sure we all have our own specific examples where we hid something online to create an image of ourselves that we wanted. My own personal example: I’m currently debating taking down a photo of myself holding a root bottle. It’s totally innocent, I mean it is just root beer, but I don’t want to risk any misinterpretations especially since I’m job hunting.
It’s impossible to tell who is watching us online. Regulating our online reputations by deleting comments or posts, limiting personal information, and thinking about how our photos will be perceived are active ways we can protect our privacy.
Maybe I shouldn’t be so surprised when I find my roommate devouring her own Facebook profile with her eyes. Maybe we should all have a long look at our profiles and think about what we share with or hide from others.
I’ve asked myself this question, but now I’d like to ask you. Is managing an online reputation based on how well we can hide from certain people? Is it all just a matter of privacy? What do you think about the way you portray yourself through social media networks?