I used to know exactly what came up when you Googled me. A year or so back, my dad began casually reciting my biography from a particularly dreadful foray into online writing at me - something I had never (and probably will never) shared with anyone I knew in ‘real life’ and which he must have found on Google.
The most embarrassing thing was that the bio declared me to be a vampire. I’m guessing it was written during my (thankfully brief) Twilight phase.
But if my dad can hunt that out from a Google search, so can everyone else.
Online, most people have now learned to keep their personal information hidden. We’ve all heard the scare stories, and we’ve all flouted the rules once of twice, but we’re not 13-years-old anymore. And now, we have different things to worry about. Gone are the days of your mother warning you that anyone you meet online is probably a 40-year-old pervert (something which is largely false, for the record).
Instead, we’re now concerned about our employment prospects and what our online presence is doing to them. Or at least we should be.
According to a survey by CareerBuilder.com, one in five employers freely admits to Googling interviewees.
But those are just the ones who admit it – in this internet age, it seems likely that a large number simply don’t admit to it. That way, the applicant would have a head start: you’d be able to clear up your record a little.
Given the list of things they look for (including information about drug or alcohol abuse, poor communication skills, lies about qualifications, and evidence of criminal behaviour) it seems obvious that when they look, they mean business.
My major Google worry, about people unearthing some of the terrible fiction I wrote as a 13-year- old, might not be typical, is not the worst thing that someone could unearth about me.
As a blogger, my views on everything and nothing can be viewed by the whole world at their leisure, and I have been known to tell several hundred unsuspecting people how crap everything is when I’m having a bad day.
When I realised what this might mean, I started to rein things in a little. Although you can still find my blog on Google (I just checked), I’m almost sure that there’s nothing there I wouldn’t mind people seeing. And I never use my full name anymore, if I can avoid it. My Twitter account, too, is private, so, for the most part, my rants remain hidden.
Facebook is obviously the most common downfall: when you turn 18 your privacy settings change by default, and many people either don’t know or care about this.
Think about what it means though: how many drunken photos are there on Facebook that might not be as hidden as you think? And how many times have you posted about being bored even though you have a tonne to do?
When that is contrasted with someone who has probably done the same, but covered their tracks, it seems natural to assume that the Shining Pillar Of Society will be favoured over the Somewhat Hilarious Drunkard, however underqualified or boring they might seem by comparison.
In this day and age, our opinions, rants, fall-outs, break-ups, family issues, bad days and good days are available for most of the world to see. And, thanks to Google caching, they never really go away. All you can hope to do is hide them.
Perhaps the easiest (if the most boring) thing to do is not post these things online in the first place.