Well, this week was sure an eye-opener in the CDP class I am attending at SFU. Allow me to elaborate: We started off a couple of days ago with looking into our “online presence”… being a Facebook junkie, this concept filled me with trepidation. Never before had I considered how I would be perceived when looking from the outside-in! (I had always just blithely typed my responses and threw my opinions out there for then intended recipient (whether it was a single person or a group of people). Finally the moment arrived —- with my heart in my throat I typed my full name into Google… 11 hits on the first page, but they were all related to cat rescue/animal advocacy!
While that was not TERRIBLE, it surely did not represent the whole of “me” and might make any potential employer take me less than seriously…I heard our teacher in the background, mentioning to another student that we should check all variants or our name – especially if you have changed your name legally or through marriage. So, heart once again firmly lodged in my throat, I typed JUST my first and last name… Oh! MUCH better, only 6 and most of them were relevant – no cat-rescue posts at all! Only one entry was out of date, which was easily rectified (it was just an old resume from the previous year, but it reflected me as being on the wrong side of the country!)
Certain site-posts have a greater “weight” than others; most notably Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube are among the more common of these “heavy-weights”. This brought up a subject for discussion: how long it takes to correct your “online presence” and (more importantly) how long it can take for those changes to be reflected in an online search! (It is quite daunting, to say the least.) The first step is to go to the source where the post/information can be found. If you have access to the post, make your changes or redact what you do not want to be displayed.
If it is not something you can edit or change (i.e. an ex posts inflammatory comments and refuses to consider removing them), you have two options: contact the hosting company and make your case for a removal of the information/comments/pictures or by burying it under a lot of POSITIVE posts that you can create through blogging or other internet actions. There was a wonderful blog post written by Sarah A. Downey on the subject of how to address what is reflected on a Google search, and in it she lists 7 steps that are critical for correcting and managing the information that is portrayed on the web. One recommendation she does not list is what to do if you share the same name as someone that has a well-weighted presence on the web. Should you run into this barrier, to prevent confusion it is recommended that you choose to add your middle initial(s) to create a more unique identity to set you apart from the other individual.
– Freya Berg