Peace, Out: Strategically Eliminating Your Web 2.0 Past

Soylent Green

Ideas for blog posts come from surprising sources. Last week, I flew to Wisconsin for a conference meeting. During the trip, there was nothing to read other than the American Airline’s magazine, American Way. As it turns out, that was a good thing. Otherwise, I would have missed this incredible article by Larry Dobrow entitled “The Ultimate Sign-Out”. In the article, Dobrow discusses a somewhat visceral response to Web 2.0 burnout – the open source solution known as the Web 2.0 Suicide Machine.

Dobrow offers the Suicide Machine, developed by Gordan Savicic and Walter Langelaar, as a solution for those experiencing Web 2.0 overload. Using their website, you can erase your entire history on four different social media platforms: Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace and Twitter. Buzz about the program is growing so quickly that it was recently featured in an episode of South Park. To date, 4,344 people have eliminated their Web 2.0 identities on one or more of the four social media platforms listed above.

My recommendation for using the program is somewhat more strategic. It’s no secret that employers are checking the social media profiles and habits of potential employees. Most likely, current and recently graduated college students established their social media pages and profiles years ago without thinking about personal branding implications and the potential impact on their future job searches that these sites may have. Postings about “how wrecked I am” and pictures presenting less-than-flattering behavior abound on their personal social media sites. I’m not for or against this practice – who among us didn’t have some fun during the late teen, early twenties period of our lives? And at some level, posting evidence of this fun via social media is a cultural bonding experience and provides representative documentation of one’s carefree pursuit of hedonistic endeavors.

However, the follies of youth are not typically considered an asset when searching for a job. So from a personal branding perspective, my recommendation is for you to selectively kill your past Web 2.0 presence and emerge with a unified personal brand across all social media platforms. Before launching into this, spend some time thinking about how you want to project yourself (your personal branding approach) to the general public and potential employers. Monitor your newly created social media identities for consistency of message and image across platforms. Use the “grandmother” rule for new postings (i.e., what would my grandmother think if she read this post or viewed this picture). Consider increasing your privacy levels to not allow people to tag you in photos or disclose your location (if possible).

The key to personal branding is to remain consistent and focused. After sending your “party-self” to the suicide machine, you gain the opportunity for a strategically focused re-birth. Done correctly, you’ll only have to eliminate your history once. So as the new academic year begins, think about when you’ll make the transition from youthful indiscretion to job-seeking professional and mark it on your calendar. Don’t think of it as the death of fun, but rather as the birth of an exciting career.

Just like Soylent Green, social media is people.

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One thought on “Peace, Out: Strategically Eliminating Your Web 2.0 Past”

  1. Nice treatment. I warn students all the time to be careful what they post on social networking sites for just this reason. Yet, I don’t think they’re listening. I’ll pass this along as I know several people who can use it. Thanks.

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