On Your Permanent Record: The Importance of Managing Your Digital Legacy

When visiting the pristine Galapagos islands, the guides warn you to “Take nothing (but photos); leave nothing (but footprints).” It’s clear why: Photos will provide the memories; footprints will not make a permanent impact on the precious environment.

However, when it comes to your digital footprint — the impression you make with photos, postings, tweets, sharing, etc.– it is anything but fleeting.

In fact, The New York Times recently wrote about people’s digital after-life — a presence that lasts long after they’ve shuffled off their mortal coil.

Personally, we’ve had Facebook friends who’ve passed only to re-appear periodically on the “Reconnect with” rotation of the site. Often, the person’s Facebook page, Twitter feed or blog become a makeshift digital memorial for mourners to share memories and notes of sympathy for the loss. We’ve also stumbled upon links to wedding websites (replete with images and musings) for someone who, sadly, is no longer with us.

Disconcerting? Maybe, but this seeming life-after-death underscores the importance of how we manage our digital profile in the here and now. Here are some simple rules of thumb to make sure your life and legacy are well represented online:

1. Educate yourself. According to a poll by Mashable, over 45 percent of HR people are now actively reviewing candidates’ social media profiles prior to extending the offer. Having too small of a presence could be as detrimental as being over-exposed. Not all online opportunities are created equally.  Be clear about what you want to accomplish and the people with whom you want to connect to determine the right vehicles for your social media profile.  For example, some professions consider LinkedIn is the site of choice. For others, it may be more effective to be up and running on Twitter.   However, if being online is simply a way to find out what family and friends (or old flames) are up to, Facebook (or its more intimate upstart Path) tend to be the select sites du jour.

2. Edit yourself. Kanye West is a cautionary tale — the good things you say and do can often be obscured by flippant, nonsensical or plain ridiculous comments. Putting it in “real people” terms, think before hitting “post” or “send.” Equate your status to an expensive billboard in Times Square; don’t just throw any old thing up there. And, don’t just shoot out an off-the-cuff missive in the heat of a moment. A seemingly innocuous but snarky comment about your breakfast, work or a friend could have long-term effects on your career, relationships or reputation.


3. Check yourself. Whether you’re writing an email or an important document, we encourage people to employ the “second set of eyes” rule. By asking someone else to review a written missive for tone or typos, you can save yourself hours of stress or embarrassment. Or, if you don’t have an eagle-eye editor at your disposal, try hitting the pause button before sending. Draft the note or document and put it aside for a few hours — even a day. When you come back, read it out loud to ensure that it a) reads well and b) that your intention/tone comes across appropriately. If it does, it probably means that what you’re putting out into the digital realm is something that you’ll be okay representing you, even after you’re gone.

4. Protect yourself. While the trend towards collaboration and crowd-sourcing is commonplace, it is also important to make sure your ideas and information are protected. How do you know what’s already out there?  Run a search on yourself and keep alerts for when your name and likeness come up.  Moving forward, monitor your security settings on a regular basis, encrypt information that is particularly sensitive and be judicious about sharing highly detailed personal information (especially via location-based sites such as FourSquare, Yelp and Gowalla) online.

What do you want your digital legacy to be?  Share it with us here, on Facebook or on Twitter (@BestPublicist).

Trackbacks

  1. […] remember, your digital profile is your lasting legacy.  Pay attention to your posts, your posse and your privacy settings to stay on the right track.  […]

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