Girl With A LaptopOnline reputation management is important, both for individuals and businesses. Since an individual’s online reputation can sometimes affect his or her employers, many companies are now more likely to have policies about how their employees present themselves online. An individual’s online reputation can also affect his or her job hunt.

“Search engines and social media sites now play a central role in building one’s identity online,” said Mary Madden, Senior Research Specialist at Pew Research Center. Madden is the lead author of a recent report about Americans’ use of the Internet, entitled “How People Monitor Their Identity and Search for Others Online.”

Madden continues:

Reputation management has now become a defining feature of online life for many internet users, especially the young. While some internet users are careful to project themselves online in a way that suits specific audiences, other internet users embrace an open approach to sharing information about themselves and do not take steps to restrict what they share. […] Many users are learning and refining their approach as they go — changing privacy settings on profiles, customizing who can see certain updates and deleting unwanted information about them that appears online.

Here are some statistics about adult Internet users, based on the survey:

  • 57 percent have used a search engine to look up results for their own name
  • 63 percent of those who search for mentions of their name will find relevant material
  • 46 percent have used a search engine to look up results for people from their past (a 10 percent increase from 2006)
  • 46 percent have a profile on a social networking site

Young adults, aged 18 – 29, are more likely than their older counterparts to restrict what they share online. Here are some more specific numbers about that practice:

  • 71 percent have changed privacy settings on their social networking profiles to limit what can be seen publicly
  • 47 percent delete unwanted comments on their profiles
  • 41 percent remove their names from photos that were tagged to identify them

You can view all of the questions from the survey on the Pew Research Center website.

Source: “How people monitor their identity and search for others online,” Pew Internet & American Life Project report, 05/26/10
Image by Ed Yourdon, used under its Creative Commons license.

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