Did You Really Just Post That Photo?
(Yep. And you are going to regret it for a loooong time.)
Imagine yourself a few years from now. (Can you see yourself? Good.) You’re a senior in high school, and you’re planning for college.
Recommendation letters? Glowing.
Personal essay? Brought tears to Mom’s eyes.
So when an envelope from your dream college arrives, you just know it will be good news. You tear it open eagerly.
There is no way to know for sure if the photos you posted on Facebook (you know, the ones that got you grounded) are the reason you were denied. But you’ll always be haunted by the possibility that the college found them.
The fact is, an increasing number of colleges are looking up applicants on social-media sites like Facebook and YouTube. If they don’t like what they find out about you, you could miss out on a scholarship or even get rejected.
Colleges aren’t the only ones scouring the Internet for your name either. Potential employers are looking too. An inappropriate photo can cost you a job, whether it’s the babysitting gig you’re hoping to land next week or the internship you will apply for five years from now.
Fair or not, what you do and say online today can affect your life for many years into the future. There are plenty of people who might be curious and google you one day—your parents, neighbors, grandparents, friends of friends. With each tag, comment, and upload, you give people a piece of information about yourself. Together, these pieces create a picture of who you are.
So you have to ask yourself, do you want the whole world knowing you got detention? Or failed a test? Do you want to put it all out there?
Unfortunately, maintaining a good online reputation doesn't leave much room for mistakes. And this is the time in your life when you’re supposed to make mistakes—and learn from them. You’re figuring out who you are and who you want to be.
Before the Internet, kids had the freedom to try new things with less risk of public humiliation. But now, your less-than-stellar moments are captured online—such as that time you carelessly posted a hurtful comment on a friend’s Instagram photo. Once these things are posted, they can last forever—even if you try to delete them. That’s because anyone can copy a picture or comment and put it on another site where you have no control of it.
BUT I HAVE PRIVACY SETTINGS!
Luckily, many kids are smart about their online reputations. According to a Pew Research study, 55 percent of teens say they chose not to post something because they thought it might reflect poorly on them in the future. Plus, the majority of teens on Facebook keep their accounts private. But privacy settings aren’t foolproof. Even with the strictest settings, search engines like Google may still pick up a post.
There are other ways to protect yourself though. Keep an eye on what others post about you as well as the comments on your photos and videos. Google yourself to see what is out there. Most important, think before you post.
A good rule of thumb? Before you upload, ask yourself: Would I show this to my grandmother? You’d better believe she’s watching.