I have more online and social media accounts (and consequently, more passwords) than I can count. When I’m not working or studying, usually I’m either scrolling through Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, or Instagram. But when you type my name into a Google search engine, the first websites that pop up usually have something to do with Cristiano Ronaldo, the soccer player (no relation, sadly).
I have Facebook and Twitter accounts, but I rarely ever make posts. I frequently reblog posts on Tumblr that other people have created, but I hardly ever take the time to write my own. I have a few audio interviews posted on my university’s online radio website, but I doubt that very many people listen to them.
On one hand, this might be a good thing. Horror stories about employers investigating the Facebook profiles of their staff members and firing people based on inappropriate pictures and text posts? Not likely to happen to me. And apart from the occasional Tweet about how much I like Teddy Grahams, I don’t think that advertisers, government employees, or whoever else analyses online activity to find out more about and manipulate users have a ton of information they can use against me.
But my lack of online presence has nothing to do with the need to maintain a sense of privacy or “get off the grid”. It has much more to do with fear of not being good enough. Ever since I started to consider pursuing a career in the media industry, the idea of building an online presence or “brand” was drilled into me by professors. So now I have this nagging feeling that every post I make – even a personal Facebook post that’s only going to be seen by my close friends – should be aligned with that “brand”. Everything I post or share has to be clever, interesting, and relatable – but I rarely ever come up with something that lives up to my twisted, insanely high expectations.
Honestly, I’m not particularly bothered by the possibility that private and public companies can read and utilize the stuff that I post online. A lot of people are bothered, though, and because of that many of those people think that maintaining a relatively low online presence is a good thing. In my opinion, the rules completely change for people who want to get into media-based industries like PR, marketing, fashion, or television production. An online presence should not be something to run away from but, instead, something to be cultivated. Many potential employers value web-savviness, and maintaining an online presence can help you demonstrate that savviness.
So if potential market manipulation is an inevitable side effect of me finally getting a job? So be it.