If a stranger was asked to sum up your character, or describe you in a few words, purely off the content and topics you posted about, commented on, shared and interacted with online, what would they say?
If the answer scares you, it might be time to think about your online reputation.
“Your reputation and identity is being shaped by every piece of content you share online, and judged, by more people than you realise.”
The following was written for Hook Media with young athletes in mind, but can apply to anyone. Particularly students, and those looking for employment opportunities.
So what is your online reputation?
Think about the types of things you post on social media and online. If someone that had never met you was asked to sum up your character, or describe you in a few words, purely off the content and topics you posted about, commented on, shared and interacted with, what would they say?
If the answer scares you, the time to act is right now. Many aspects of an athlete’s journey (genetics, injuries, even weather conditions) are beyond their control. Fortunately, one of the best things about social media and your online identity, is that you are in complete control. You decide what you are known for.
Why is it so important?
You might think that judging someone’s suitability for a collegiate sports team, purely off the types of things they say online, the photos they post, or the language they use is harsh, but it’s happening.
Colleges and their coaches are under a lot of pressure to have a successful program, run a tight-ship and produce educated leaders of character that represent the school well. It’s about far more than just a winning record.
Every day people are being judged by the information they make available online for people to decide what type of person they are. People may not lose all chance of a scholarship over an inappropriate social media update, but they might. They could certainly limit the schools looking at them. Often college coaches and recruiters are short on time and have to make snap decisions.
If the only information they have to gather a first impression of you is your online identity, will your social media behaviour have them pass you by? It may not be just one thing that brings you down, but why risk it? You might catch a coach on an off-day, having already been tipped over the edge from a previous issue or situation on social media with another player. They might see one thing that raises red flags and immediately pass on you. It may have already happened. Just because you haven’t been warned or called on it, it doesn’t mean people haven’t overlooked you, and simply moved on due to something they’ve found.
So what should you do?
If I could offer you just one piece of advice it would be this; Think. Before. You. Post.
Social media updates and posts are the equivalent of speaking into a live microphone. Regardless of privacy settings, once you post it, it’s out there, and out of your control. As an athlete, try thinking about all the different audiences that could see your post, such as teammates, players of all ages, parents, officials, sponsors or other coaches, opposition, representative bodies, employers and of course potential college recruiters and coaches. What would they think?
If it helps, use this common (among social media educators) acronym for the word T.H.I.N.K to help with your decision making process, when deciding what to post;
T – Is it true?
H – Is it helpful?
I – Is it inspiring?
N – Is it necessary?
K – Is it kind?
Sports, clubs, teams and athletes put so much effort into working on athleticism, game skills, game plans, team work, health and fitness – striving to reach their ultimate team and individual goals. Yet, all of the effort and progress made can be undone so easily by something completely unrelated to physical activity. Do you understand the risks?