In “The Social Network,” Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is dressed down by his ex-girlfriend for his misogynistic comments about her on his blog.
“The internet isn’t written in pencil, Mark,” she says. “It’s written in ink.”
It’s an important idea – one that sometimes gets lost as we immerse ourselves in Facebook and Twitter and political blogs and all the rest of the digital footprints we leave around the web on a regular basis.
These footprints are easy to follow, especially for someone like your prospective employer, who has a vested interest in finding out as much about you as he possibly can.
One of my favorite examples: several years ago, a couple of extremely vile right-wing bloggers, Kim and Connie du Toit, were trying to set up a business developing software for homeschooling parents to track their children’s educational progress. Good idea, but even they didn’t expect that their online output (which included calls for turning Mecca into a glass parking lot and the lynching of their political enemies) would be a problem in a seemingly unrelated field.
But when potential investors read their blogs, the investors (understandably) ran scared.
Now I’m guessing that your Facebook output probably doesn’t include calls for mass murder of Muslims. But it’s important to remember that the impression you make on an employer extends far beyond your carefully-crafted resume and cover letter.
You can spend a lot of time and energy doing things like researching the black arts of Facebook privacy settings. But another way to go would be to consider, every time you leave a footprint online – is this something you wouldn’t mind your mother reading about you? How about your boss? How about Anderson Cooper?
Yes, that’s a harsh, and not very fun, standard. But when you’re looking for a job, isn’t your prospective employment more important than your ability to rant on Facebook?