It’s happened to the best of us. You fork out for a slick haircut, shave your whiskers (and toss on a splash of the good aftershave), and front to that big job interview in a freshly tailored suit, just to be told you didn’t get the role because of that ONE time you did blackface for a frat party in uni.
Like, one time. COME ON.
Anybody who thinks that recruiters don’t go through your digital footprints is a naïf. To the point that they probably don’t deserve the job in the first place. Seriously, just look to the news headlines of today to gauge the tone. James Gunn, one of Hollywood’s biggest directors, being fired by Disney and left grovelling on his knees in apology over some ill-advised tweets that fell on deaf ears a decade ago, is one example.
And then there’s The Bachelor hopeful and wannabe Insta-model Blair Thomas, who discreetly scrubbed a caption this week that could have been a PR disaster. The caption, which has now been edited to simply say “School holidays”, originally read “School holidays, you got me feeling like Cathy Freeman”, ostensibly in reference to her tan, which was definitely sprayed on anyway.
Let’s hope nobody screenshot that one….
To be honest, while these examples are more tactless than they are genuinely nasty, going for a job is largely about tact, and how you are perceived is a huge part. It’s more important now than ever to know that you can either stand by what you’ve said in the past, or delete it before it gets found, and we’re wagering that every single person with a Facebook account, Twitter or Instagram has left behind at least a small trail of acrimonious breadcrumbs, or has been tagged in something off-colour.
This handy infographic from UK website Career Savvy explains in some detail just how much an effect your social media presence can have on potential employment, and that’s just in terms of getting a job. On the back of two box office hits, James Gunn was feeling very comfortable in his role at Disney before an alt-right commentator dug up his old tweets, proving that it’s never too soon to clean up your act, and ensure your online presence is A-OK.
The age of outrage is as equally defined by people getting up in arms about things from ten years ago as it is painful reminders of everything you did and said ten years ago, so today we’re offering a different kind of “digital detox”: one where your online presence is scrubbed of any lurking C-bombs, photos of you asleep in your own effluence, or that time you thought that cross-dressing for your mate’s bucks was the funniest thing ever.
Step one: Stick with what you know
By starting with the posts, comments and tags that you know might get you in trouble, you’re probably getting most of the ones that others know about too. Photo of you naked, strapped to a pole with a bullseye drawn on your arse with lipstick? Delete. Tweet about how many dingers you shelved at Splendour that year? Delete. Thought that going to muck-up day dressed as a Klansma… you get my drift.
Have a think about what a potential employer may see. What you see as a fun, harmless memory might actually be seen as highly insensitive to the person you could be relying on for a paycheck. Keep the filth to your WhatsApp group and off the internet.
Step two: What used to be okay might not be now
This one might be the most overlooked, as the fact that a tweet doesn’t necessarily age well isn’t always your fault. What if you tweeted, back in 2015, how much you loved Harvey Weinstein? Or Bill Cosby? Or how Roseanne is long overdue for a comeback? All innocuous tweets in their own right, but over time might prove to be a little bit … well … shit.
Have a think if you’ve ever posted a selfie with Jimmy Savile before you hit “send” on that job application.
Step three: Go for a scroll
This is by the far the most tedious and boring part of hoping the internet forgets your previous bullshit, but if you’re a real shit-stirrer, a necessary one. Scrolling through each post, one at a time, used to be the only way to guarantee a new life as the social media nice guy, but thanks to Scrubber, a web-based service that allows you to filter through past posts (including comments made by your dickhead friends) for nudity, profanity, mentions of drugs or alcohol, and religious / political views (just in case).
This takes a lot of the legwork out of knowing what to delete, but remember to also be wary of comments you’ve left on others’ posts in the past, just to be sure.
Step four: Google yourself
This may seem like the most obvious, but it’s perilously easy to assume that there’s no actual dirt floating around the rest of the web, that isn’t necessarily on your social pages. See, there’s this website called “Google” (pretty sure they just made that up) that basically aggregates every single thing that’s ever happened into literally millions of pages of search results. You can check it out at google.com.
Seriously, do it. There’s loads of great stuff on there.
Type your name in, hit “Enter” and see what comes up.
Unless your name is Harvey Weinstein. Then you’ll want to visit this site.
Step five: When in doubt, go private
Seriously, this is the easiest way to hide yourself online from people who aren’t approved to see your profiles on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, and not a bad idea in the current era. What started as a way to connect with friends has also become a way of wearing a little too much on your sleeve, and given the ability to pull up dirt on just about anybody is easily demonstrable, updating your security settings is certainly a better idea than dropping the N-word in a comment, even if you were just referencing the lyrics to Chamillionaire’s breakthrough hit Ridin’ Dirty, which, was, like, totally not even a thing back then. Everybody did it. Right. Right?
Happy scrubbing, social media degenerates.