My Father recently sent me a random page he found on the ‘net that amalgamated all the footprints I’ve left on the ‘net for the last 13 years. Scrolling through the pages was a bit like going through an old closet – there were some bad choices made, some tacky things said and some dubious colorful commentary. Overall though, I wasn’t displeased by the pages and pages of references (some going back to 1998!). Generally, they showed a positive, forward-thinking businesswoman who sometimes spoke with too much candor but had a clear purpose in life.
When I started Bramble Berry as a naive 20 year old, I never envisioned where the internet was going. I didn’t realize that there would be hundreds and thousands of online communities started and then shuttered with their archives alive for everyone and anyone to see. I didn’t think of my words being like handwriting on a fogged up window, disappearing until someone came along and blew.
My entire life is out there on the internet just waiting to be excavated. Now, I’m lucky. I’m self-employed and (knock on wood) hope to continue in this fashion for the rest of my life. I don’t have potential employers scouring the internet to find my one or two indiscretions. I’m happily married; I don’t have possible suitors checking me out online before a first date. But, what I do have is potential customers searching about my company, making a value judgment on if they want to do business with us.
Every little thing you say, on every arcane forum or every forgotten blog or every long-lost site, is out there, ripe for the reading for anyone with a little bit of time on their hands and a basic grasp of the Way Back Machine.
What are you saying right now? Are you leaving trails that you can be proud of? Are you living your life offline and online with integrity and commitment to your values? Are the words you’re writing today something that you would be proud of your kids reading in 20 years? Yes, be honest. Be authentic. But, always be mindful of your reputation because every track you leave online is building the foundation for your reputation.