If a person walks on sand or snow and leaves footprints, it will not last long. However, that is not true for digital footprints. They include a person’s online activities.
Even if someone thinks twice about something they post and eventually deletes it, the damage has already been done. Other internet users can capture screenshots of posts that only remain visible for a few minutes and then quickly spread them for all to see, thereby ruining future opportunities.
Social media posts could put college opportunities at risk
Many college applicants spend years trying to earn good grades, participate in extracurricular activities, and achieve high scores on college entrance exams.
However, the evidence shows that social media activity could negate those efforts and harm someone’s online reputation. A 2018 survey found that 57% of college admissions professionals consider social media profiles a fair game when making applicant decisions. However, it is somewhat comforting that only 25% admitted to taking that route.
Marilyn Hesser, executive director of admissions at the University of Richmond, said social media evaluations are not usually part of the process there. However, she noted that the institution makes an exception if the applicant provides links to social networks or if a third party reveals problematic information about a candidate. Hesser also confirmed that the University of Richmond rejected applicants on rare occasions because of the content on social media.
In a recent incident, Border Patrol officers rejected Ismail B. Ajjawi, a 17-year-old Harvard freshman from Palestine, after landing in Boston. Authorities allegedly confiscated the student’s phone and computer, then found posts from friends whose political views opposed the United States.
Ajjawi replied that he played no role in the posts and did not like, comment on or share the content, but was still rejected. He successfully arrived at Harvard 10 days later, but only after the assistance of legal professionals and university representatives.
Online material makes people doubt about hiring decisions
As people modify their resumes and become anxious about the best ways to express themselves in cover letters, they should also consider restricting access to their social media profiles, if possible.
A survey revealed that 57% of recruited professionals looking at social media content found material that made them not hire candidates. Furthermore, the practice of such evaluation seems to be more widespread in the workforce than in the area of university admission. The survey indicates that 70% of respondents already browse social media profiles for research purposes, and 7% intended to start.
Offensive material posted on such platforms need not be from the past few months. Comedian Kevin Hart discovered it the worst way when he lost his performance as host of the 2019 Academy Awards. The culprit was a homophobic tweet posted in 2011. In another case of a costly mistake, Australian rugby player Israel Folau lost a multi-year $ 4 million contract after a Twitter post saying that various broad groups of people would go to hell. Folau finally had a chance to play for another team, but some people in the rugby world objected to that news and saw the player as a potential risk.
It only takes seconds to ruin an online reputation
As previously discussed, many people hastily delete controversial tweets, but it’s too late. Cached pages and sites like the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine mean that deleting content doesn’t prevent you from chasing someone again.
Then, as a Texas English teacher discovered, problems can arise by sending tweets to someone rather than posting them as part of a public broadcast. This is because Twitter displays a person’s main feed, as well as responses made to other site users. Georgia Clark sent several tweets to President Trump, asking him for help to eliminate undocumented immigrants from the school where she taught. A student also said that Clark expressed damaging views in the classroom.
An early decision on the matter concluded that the teacher should either get back her job or receive a year’s pay, but coverage from November 2019 indicated that the school may file an appeal. Even in results that favor the person who made a mistake, that person can spend months or years trying to regain the public’s trust. Furthermore, the past could hamper future efforts of social media users in the job market if they need to look for work.
Digital footprints persist
As people become more dependent on the Internet and frequently use it to voice opinions or joke about things that some viewers find offensive, online activities are more likely to ruin future opportunities. Therefore, caution is the best approach to publishing content online.