As the month of September rolls on, more and more Australian athletes are coming to the end of their winter sporting seasons.
It’s been a long hard grind, from competition to training sessions, travelling to and from games, giving your all on the field, overcoming injuries, abstaining from vices, and overall dedication to individual and team goals.
Now, it’s officially the off-season. Time to celebrate, commiserate, relax and reflect on the season that was, before preparations and pre-seasons for next year start.
It’s also the time of parties, of end-of season-trips, awards nights and club functions. It’s the time to let your hair down and blow off steam, but it’s also a time that can see you let your guard down when it comes to managing your reputation.
This time of year is notorious for bringing down people caught crossing the line in their celebrations, when the alcohol is flowing you can very quickly damage your reputation, on and off-line, and seriously impact your opportunities in the future.
For decades, the legends told of off-season antics during end-of-season trips, ‘Mad Mondays’ or general post-season celebrations have been told and retold, embellished and then retold again, second, third, or even fourth hand, glorifying all manner of misbehaviour.
However in this day and age, unfortunately, the alcohol (and often drug) affected antics are captured more often than not on a mobile device, to be shared eventually, or often instantaneously by someone just as intoxicated or more. Once shared publicly, they become part of the subject’s online identity, no longer just a legend or rumour.
This past weekend I saw Facebook posts from a player from a local baseball club, a teammate of some mutual friends. This person certainly should have known better, but he placed an image of a teammate up online, from what I could gather in real-time, mid-celebrations, tagging him slumped over drunk, looking like a fool.
This may have seemed hilarious at the time, to the person who took and posted the image, but it is the stuff of nightmares for anyone looking to preserve their reputation in the online world. The image has now been taken down, but the damage has been done.
As we’ve written about before, this stuff matters. Future employers, teams, and organisations are looking at your online presence very closely and judging your suitability for certain roles on what they find.
If you think that people will give you a pass, or care that you were ‘out of competition season’ or just blowing off some steam, you’re wrong. It might not cause an issue straight away, while the spotlight is off for the moment. But it can come around to haunt you when people start looking back through your online profile. So with that in mind here are;
5 tips for keeping your online reputation intact this off-season.
1. There is no off-season
When it comes to keeping your online reputation intact, there is no off-season, so the smartest thing to do is keep your professionalism on social media all year round. It is not an easy task, as warmer weather approaches, people are more relaxed and they are also more social. This inevitably leads to more parties, more gatherings and more images and videos surfacing online.
You are not going to throw away all of the hard work you’ve done to build your skills, build up your athleticism, be smart about your injuries and your diet, so keep on top of your online reputation as well. Remember, potential future coaches, employees, and teammates don’t know that video of you sculling beer on Instagram is a ‘one-off’, and they don’t care.
2. Never post when you are overly tired, emotional, or under the influence of alcohol
If only social media had a 12 hour time delay before making your posts public. How many statuses posted late at night and in the early morning would get re-thought and deleted? Not to mention ‘likes’, ‘retweets’, ‘shares’ and ‘comments’ on posts.
Like most tasks, interacting on social media when you are under the influence of alcohol is very dangerous. Don’t post for the sake of posting, or you may wake up to more regrets than you should. Even if something is deleted within hours of it being posted, plenty of people all around the world could have seen it, shared it on, or saved it for their records. Anything you want to say should be said when you are rested and have thought through what you want to post. Think (Clearly) Before You Post.
3. Know your privacy settings
When was the last time you checked the privacy settings on your social media accounts? Chances are there has been an update or three to the way privacy settings are set-up on Facebook, Instagram and other platforms since you last checked.
Having all of your accounts set to private is a safe option, but beware as this is also seen as a red-flag for people who take the view that you must have something to hide.
Your privacy settings may be as perfect as you can make them but what about your friends’ or teammates’? Might they say or post something with you in the post? They may not be able to tag you directly, but chances are you’ll wish that someone in the group of people that can see it, didn’t see it.
Unfortunately there is only so much being on top of your privacy settings can help, and it will definitely help keep your reputation safer, at least safer until you get a chance to…
4. Do a periodic sweep of your online identity (and get a friend to do the same)
You may not be under the eye of coaches, selectors, or potential future employers out of season, but now is the perfect time to do a sweep (probably every couple of weeks, and then more diligently before and after parties and events) removing anything you think might be considered reputation damaging.
This is an important process when building your online identity in general, because often you’ll find when looking back, what you thought was harmless and acceptable once, no longer seems like a smart thing to have attached to your name.
Did you retweet, share, mention or link to something that was funny at the time, or you were caught up in the popularity of something that on second thought, you now don’t agree with? Do your best to remove that content from online.
If the offensive content is not your own, then it’s time to ask the original poster, or owner to take it down. If they will not remove the content, then you are within your rights to explore the options that the social media platform have in question to report and request that the content be removed.
5. Use the off-season to get ahead online
Finally, and how about this for a novel idea, instead of being cautious about hiding any perceived reputation-damaging updates and interactions behind privacy settings, why not treat the off-season as your chance to build your reputation, character and standing in the sport, off the field?
When it comes down to it, you are being judged whether you like it or not, on the content you put out online, so you might as well give them something to look at!
Don’t be afraid to show off the good stuff you are doing, what you’ve achieved and what you have learned. It might initially seem like bragging, but posting about your work ethic, focus and professionalism, will only lift your online reputation (and may just inspire a teammate or someone unrelated to push themselves to new heights). Be proud of the work you are putting in.
– All alone on a Saturday in the gym? Why not put a picture out about it.
– Out with your family? Don’t be afraid to talk about the important people in your life.
– Been reading up on leadership, or studying game plans or professional athletes going about their work? Why not post one of their inspirational quotes, or talk about what you’ve learned that will lift your own performance.
– Been to see coaching staff, or medical staff? Thank them publicly for the help they’ve given you. It’s always good to be appreciative.