I’ll never forget the day I learned the real meaning of online presence. I was dating a highly educated, successful man in his mid-forties who was far more conservative than I considered myself to be. Over a lavish lunch on the Upper East Side, he said to me, “You know I was googling you last night and one of the images that came up was a giant condom…”
I stared at him a bit bewildered but then burst out laughing remembering that I’d made some silly joke on Twitter about the new Pumpkin Spiced Condoms and simply included the photo. No big deal, right? He took out his iPhone and went to my Twitter page. Since I rarely post photos, there was the giant condom shining brightly and a bit embarrassingly.
“Sarah this is the first thing people see when they look you up… Is that representative of who you are?”
I wanted to tell him these were just jokes and my “quirky internet personae,” but I realized I couldn’t argue with the point he was making. My current and future employers would see this. He was also saying that as my current boyfriend, he wasn’t cool with it either. I saw that I really had to be conscious of my online presence and be aware of how things (even jokes) might be perceived.
It’s no doubt that the Internet has enhanced our lives beyond belief. But, it’s also frightening how easy it makes it to dig up dirt on anyone–all with a simple Google search. We can also no longer believe that our personal social media accounts can’t or won’t be accessed by our current or future employers. Nothing is “personal” anymore, and you WILL be judged on the image you’re putting forth. In fact a 2013 survey from CareerBuilder found 39% of employees are accessing their employee’s social sites, while a staggering 43% said they have disposed of a candidate solely because of something they found.  This is why it’s so important to keep our photos clean and not to post anything disparaging about our company or boss.
But what about dating sites? This is what we oftentimes forget! Dating sites can potentially be just as accessible as anything else on the internet. And now that many are actually connected to our personal social media accounts, it’s easier to find them than ever. You don’t want to be harming your reputation or missing out on the job of your dreams just because you’ve been putting out the wrong kind of image on OkCupid!
So if want to date online while still staying HR compliant, here are three vital rules to keep your job (and reputation) intact.
1. A Photo is Worth a Thousand Words
Oh, and it also can last forever. Seriously. I once google imaged myself (because ya know–I’m highly narcissistic,) and I found old OkCupid photos that weren’t even in my profile anymore. The worst part: It was of me doing a keg stand! Yup. Not really the depiction of maturity and sophistication. But since I hadn’t used the photo in years, I couldn’t believe it was still bouncing around the Internet now. Scary, right? So if it was that easy to access an old and deleted photo, you can see how the rest of your pics are just as easy to find. HR compliant is Keep it clean and Less is more. You’ve got a rockin’ bikini bod? Go You! Just save it for the beach. If you’ve got a bunch of salacious pics of yourself, you may be setting yourself up for disaster. Anyone can see them including your co-workers, managers, and future employers. And anything you post can be copied, forwarded and kept forever by God knows who! Always be judicious with the photos you choose to share. Once you’re in a trusting relationship, then you can send racy pics of yourself privately–just save it for that special someone.
And I’m not sexist- The very same goes for guys. I’ll never forget that time I stumbled upon an old co-worker’s dating profile pic, which featured him wearing barely anything more than his birthday suit and conveyed a strong bondage fetish. Luckily, I never mentioned it to him or anyone else, but I definitely had a good chuckle over it. And you can bet I never looked at him the same way again!
2. Keep your Business to Yourself
And I mean this literally. I know we’re all a society of over-sharers, but it shocks me to see guys & gals on OkCupid who include their specific company name in their profile. One gentleman stated that he worked for a private equity firm (with name,) but hated it and was looking to quit and travel around the world. Don’t you think if someone from his company got wind of that, there would be hell to pay? Never post sensitive information about your company or business, and keep their name out of it. In order to date while staying HR compliant, keep your business on the down low.
And don’t think that if you have your own business, then this doesn’t apply to you. This isn’t LinkedIn, it’s a dating site. Until you know and trust someone, there is absolutely no reason you should give out your business name. Remember there are a lot of scammers out there. With all of the personal information, you’re capriciously doling out, it can end up in the wrong hands and possibly lead to some serious damage. It’s imperative to be discreet if your professional reputation means anything to you. In my dating profile, I state that I’m a writer who works in Finance. That’s it. Want to know more? Buy me a drink and I’ll tell you everything. Until then, don’t mix business with pleasure.
3. Expect Everything to Become Public
I’m not trying to scare you, but it has happened. Just this very week news broke that millions of our very own LinkedIn accounts have been compromised and also that a researcher has been publishing intimate details from our personal OkCupid accounts. And we all know what happened to those unlucky Ashley Madison members. I’m not trying to dissuade you in any way from online dating, but these incidents show how easy these leaks can be, and that no one is ever guaranteed total anonymity. That’s why when constructing your profiles, always keep in mind that this information can potentially become public. If you like to engage in hedonistic activities, such a swinging, sex clubs or a little 420 — that’s your choice and totally fine. But ask yourself if this information leaks or stumbles into the wrong hands, could it possibly harm your professional reputation? I’ve seen guys on dating sites (with unobstructed photos,) that are married and “looking,” and who are not shy at all about admitting this to the world. This is the dumbest thing you can do (second to cheating.) Imagine if someone you worked with saw this and spilled it at the company holiday party. Not only could your job be in jeopardy, but your marriage could be as well. So, please think before you post any raunchy photos, embarrassing sexual details, or incriminating details. You may even want to take a look at your company’s handbook to make sure all of your social media and dating accounts are HR compliant. Remember that you never really know who’s on the other end of that iPhone or computer. Be mindful of your online dating presence–or it could come back to haunt you.