Your online personal updates (or tweets) could make or break you in the real world


I recently went to a sales meeting - it was a referral to the client and we hadn't met before. After the brief introductions and exchange of business cards the client asked me if I was "the one with the blog?"

I was briefly confused - there are a few other David Billsons who have blogs in the world, There's even a musician in the UK who seems to be fairly popular. Luckily my facial expression must have relayed what I was thinking "Is he talking about my blog?" because he clarified and said - you have the personal website - you know, it said you had 6 kids?

While there may be other David Billson's in the world with blogs, I'm fairly sure there's only one with 6 kids. At first I thought he might have been talking about rtraction's corporate blog - but it became obvious he was referring to this site.

The individual I was meeting with is a successful entrepeneur in the fitness business - he seems to be very comfortable with the web but yet not a power-user by any means, yet he admitted to me he freely "Googles" any person he is about to meet to find out some context about the individual.

In our race to embrace social media sometimes we lose sight of the fact that we're not only communicating to people we know and have contacts with today - but that we're putting out information forward to the future to people that we haven't met yet - and that contact could hurt our future job chances.

Shortly after this meeting I saw a user on twitter post about downloading TV shows. I personally don't engage in this activity, I use Zip. I put downloading TV shows in the category of going 120 km/hr in a 90km/hr zone - still technically illegable but I know lots of people that do it, and don't think anything less of them for doing so, but I choose not to partake in the activity myself.

However, other people (particularly those that work in that industry) probably feel more strongly about it. I would assume some people are dead-set against it morally. Others may have implications far reaching that you may not directly see - for example, one of rtraction's clients is a producer of television content - I would imagine that they would feel strongly about the practice. Imagine that client Googling our project team and finding a post/comment about downloading TV shows (especially if it's one that they produced!)

So it's not hard to imagine a scenario whereby an individual doing their research prior to a meeting, job interview, etc finds a comment about downloading TV shows that could instantly lose the opportunity to work with the organization - without even knowing why you lost it.

I think if we censor ourselves too much in the social media space it will lose its charm, but at the same time I think we need to be cautious that anything you do put into the web-o-sphere is not only publically available, but highly searchable, easy to access, and archived for a long time (anyone who has had fun with Google Cache understands this delema - just because you've deleted it from your website/twitter/facebook doesn't mean it's gone!).

In the early days of the web we had aliases, hidden personas that could protect things we say and do from general consumption, but now with personal/family blogs and Facebook (which specifically enforces being a "real person") you are what you say - so just watch out you're not sticking your foot in your mouth - you may not even realize that you've done it until years later.

My advice to people regarding email and web communications is always: If you don't want something you've said printed on a T-shirt, forwarded to millions of people, or taken out of context, don't put it into a computer!