We all joke that social media is a “stalking” tool. But it’s actually not so much of a joke as it is a “I’m going to say this with air quotes so it sounds less creepy, but really that’s exactly what it is” kinda thing.
Whenever I come across someone who it would be beneficial for me to know more about, I turn to the Goog to see what kind of profiles pop up for them. Where do they work, and what professional connections might I have to them? (LinkedIn.) Who are they having conversations with, what are they talking about, and what would a tiny snapshot of them look like (e.g., what’s really important to them)? (Twitter.) What friends or groups do we have in common, and how much do you opt to share with the public on your profile? (Facebook). Never mind what happens AFTER we become Facebook friends…
And this is just “new person” stalking. I also have my routines for general passive stalking, natch. I look through wedding photos of those high school friends I don’t talk to anymore (mostly to see who got fat, since generally my entire high school is AT said wedding. Very few of us make it out of Worcester, Massachusetts, y’all).
I get notified from the Job Change Notifier when you change job titles on LinkedIn. I follow your conversation threads on Twitter to see who or what you’re passive aggressively tweeting about. I ponder your hopes and dreams on Pinterest, what you think is funny on Tumblr, and now thanks to Instagram, I know everything there is to know about your pets.
My point is this: I do all of this without having a vested interest in you. Do you really think someone looking to HIRE you wouldn’t do the same?
I’ve had a few alarming conversations with people lately who still think that privacy on the interwebs is a real thing. Kids, that time has come and gone. If you put it in e-print, it’s officially Out There. The possibility for anyone, anywhere to see it now exists, no matter how tight on lock down you think you’ve got it.
Much like the only 100% positive way to not get pregnant is to abstain from the horizontal mambo, the only way to be 100% safe online is to never put anything online you wouldn’t want your boss/mom to read. Those “privacy settings” on Facebook might seem foolproof, but what’s to stop someone from taking a screenshot of your “Spring Break in Cancun” album and sharing it with the world? Zero. Zip. ZILCH. Ditto for your “protected” Twitter account. Oh, and your blog is only anonymous until the wrong person puts the pieces together. I’ve seen it happen to friends over and over, and it ain’t pretty.
I’m not telling you to be all sugar and spice on your social media accounts. If you’re fine with your boss seeing you tweet about the pitcher of margs you’re downloading into your face at happy hour, power to ya.
All I’m saying is, be prepared to accept the consequences of every single thing you put out there being seen. Because as we’ve seen from all too many brand fuck ups, the “delete” button just doesn’t work on the internet.