I was chatting with a friend recently about her online presence… specifically her lack of an online identity. And her choice was a conscious one:
- No LinkedIn
- No Facebook
- No Twitter
- No Instagram
With all of the concern lately about personal online security and enterprise password breaches, I know it’s become something of a trend recently to actually reduce your time online.
But what about having no online identity? As in… if someone Googles your name… and you’re not there… at all. Does that mean you don’t exist?
Well, I suppose the next question is whether you want to exist online.
I know some (including my friend) might put together a pretty compelling argument that there’s no ‘good’ reason to have an online identity and/or engage in social media.
But I think for most of us, there are still legitimate reasons that essentially demand that we play in our ever-growing virtual world.
Looking for a Job and LinkedIn
These days, if you’re looking for a new job and you don’t have a LinkedIn profile, you’re putting yourself at a distinct disadvantage.
In fact, many companies’ job application portals require you to add your LinkedIn URL to scrape all of your key data.
Do people who might want to hire you also want to see a well-lit, professional-looking photo of you on LinkedIn?
I think the fundamental expectation today is anyone who’s looking for a job needs to properly package their professional brand and credentials online for others to browse through.
How you present yourself used to begin the moment you walked into the job interview or during your exploratory phone call.
Now that process begins days or weeks earlier when your name gets Googled.
That’s the point of first contact!
So, do make a point of posting a friendly photo of yourself on LinkedIn (unless looking angry is important to your personal brand).
And do write up a few authentic and relevant sentences at the top about your value proposition.
Think of it as your virtual self handing out business cards 24/7 to anyone in the world who might be interested in you…
It matters… a lot.
Otherwise, the default impression you give if you can’t be found is there’s something wrong…
Photo Sharing on Social Media
I know we can debate the wisdom of sharing personal photos with family and friends on our favorite social media sites, because we’re really giving up ownership of those pics to giant companies. And despite how many privacy guarantees are out there, we need to recognize that we’re handing over those photos to the universe… forever.
But at the end of the day, many of your connections are still going to share an ongoing photo stream of their lives. Why wouldn’t you want to see the pics?
This method of group communication has clearly become a standard way people stay in touch. So, you probably want access to view these important moments.
(Arguably some more important than others)
But to have that, you usually need to activate your own accounts on these social media platforms.
If you’re hedging on the whole social media thing and believe you can still stay connected using old fashion methods, I say that’s much harder to do…
For example… If you’re waiting for photos from a family event that you missed to show up in the mail, I think you’re going to be left in the dark… forever. Those priceless pics got posted online hours after the event.
I know this is yesterday’s news, but if you still house any doubts, social media will absolutely help to keep you connected to what’s happening with family and friends.
(That’s the entire purpose!)
Do you need to see every pet pic or every dinner plate photo? Maybe not. But the totality of the visual experience will keep you informed on the lives of others who matter to you.
I know it’s odd that you end up knowing so much about friends without having to talk with them for months… or even years at a time. But how different is that from the old practice of keeping pen pals? Sharing photos and notes online is simply a more efficient method enabled by technology.
You Shouldn’t Be Surprised When You Google Your Name
Ultimately, feeding your online identity helps to more easily maintain your personal connections. Plus, it’s arguably your most important asset to projecting your professional brand to the rest of the world.
(And to be clear, zero professional identity online is not good for your career.)
If you don’t exist online today, in many ways… you don’t exist. From an existential perspective, I know that may sound troubling. But from a practical perspective, it’s not that hard to fix.
So, do you exist?