5 Reasons You Should Really Be Googling Yourself

Take fifteen seconds right now and google your name.

What are the results?

Are you surprised?

We carefully curate our social media presence and try to control how people see us online, but the reality is that with Google or other online search engines, all bets are off.

When employers are deciding on potential candidates, one of their first steps is to research us. Consider this your first *real* impression. This could make or break your chances before you even step foot into the interview. Besides employers, think about how many people (or strangers) have access to every facet of your life without your knowledge because you haven’t taken the steps to see what’s actually out there. More importantly, think about what they could do with the information they find.

Depending on your career field

Future employees of government or security agencies may be wise to choose the information they share digitally, while media and communication studies are fully expected to be immersed in the social media world. Googling yourself and finding a crafted portfolio of your best writing or photography are sure to work in your favor. If you choose to be on social media, try to inform yourself of what others may find and be ready to talk about it (or defend it).

Unique names have their advantages… and disadvantages

Depending on the lottery of luck you were given by your parents, your name could ensure your continued privacy or filter every public aspect of your life to the first search results page. I’ve always thought that I had a common name, so much so that it’s been considered gender-neutral in the last few years. It takes quite a bit of creativity to find my digital footprint, but it’s definitely there.

Add some keywords

Take it one step further than just searching your name (if it’s considered common) and add your school or city. We’ve all been down the rabbit hole of seeing our best friend’s cousin’s boyfriend’s 2014 vacation pictures after mindlessly scrolling through Instagram by using some clues. If we can make it that deep into someone’s social media presence, others could easily do the same to you with a little creativity and some buzzwords. Suddenly you went from being a discrete digital user to viewing your entire high school experience, all documented on the internet for eternity. Hot Topic band tees and braces, anyone?

Just because an account is set to private doesn’t mean it actually is

As much as we would love to think that toggling the little privacy switch on your Twitter or Instagram account ensures anonymity or privacy, these platforms aren’t foolproof. Within the last year, Facebook allowed massive amounts of profiles to be hacked through the “View as someone else” feature, allowing users to see what their profile looks like to others. This opened a back door to accounts and, despite the quick fix that Facebook released, jeopardize the security of private content. Beyond that, there is nothing stopping an approved follower from screenshotting your own private content and sharing it without your knowledge but still leaving your name attached to it. Just a few quick searches could reveal the snakes among your friend list.

Can you do anything about it?

So you’ve googled yourself and realize that you need to clean up the results. What next? Untag yourself in pictures and change your settings so you have to approve any tags in the future. Decide what you want to disaffiliate from and research the process to request removal of content, including directly contacting web hosts with a formal request. Delete accounts that you no longer use and contact customer support to completely remove accounts you don’t have access to. Yes, this includes your old Myspace. You never know what could come back to haunt you from adolescents.

If you continue to have issues with Google or search engine results, have some friends search your name and see if their results are any different based on their browser cookies. Google has taken notice of people wanting to control their digital image and now offer their own guide on how to effectively do so.

Happy searching, collegiettes!