It’s 2016 – 4 Ways to Own Your Reputation, Online and Off

In 2016 you can still learn something about how to maintain your reputation from a classic of English literature that’s over 100 years old. In fact, the book in question, Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, is now 126 years old. First published in the July 1890 issue of Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine, it tells the tale of young, aristocratic Dorian Gray who makes a deal with the Devil to retain his beauty and youth forever.

As Dorian pursues a life of experience and sensations his portrait ages and becomes grotesque while he remains physically unchanged. Even so, among members of London’s upper classes there are rumours of his… activities.

So what relevance does a book written in Victorian England have for the age of Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and incredibly cheap and plentiful digital storage? Lots, it turns out.

Here are 4 ways you can protect your reputation in 2016 against databases with long memories and business competitors looking to steal your clients.


1) Cultivate Your Reputation

Building lasting friendships and working relationships often takes months, if not years. That’s because it’s not easy to trust other people. To protect your online reputation you should adapt this technique for the online world.

Create a professional blog where you share content that’s useful and relevant to your line of work. Make connections with leaders in your field and learn from what they do online. Lock down personal Facebook accounts and think twice before posting pictures of yourself online that colleagues and clients may find objectionable.

The best way to maintain a good reputation is to actively cultivate one. So take control and make a plan if you’re unhappy with your online profile.

2) A Database Never Forgets

Digital storage is convenient and cheap today. Instead of deleting old files, many companies find it easier to just buy more digital storage. Put another way – have you ever deleted any files in your Dropbox account? Exactly.

Because databases have such long memories, every credit card transaction, website visit, private text message, and online comment associated with you is stored somewhere. Hence the importance of cultivating your reputation. Building information for public consumption will help defend you online against untrue rumours.

Because data storage is cheap and potentially forever, you want to be very careful about your online activities. They are being recorded somewhere. The more you keep this in mind, the easier it will be to build an online reputation that you can be proud of.

3) A Screenshot is Worth a Thousand Words

Even keeping the first two rules in mind, you can still make a mistake. We all do – to err is to be human. What I’m referring to here is sending text messages and photos that you would not want your co-workers or boss reading. In less than a second someone can take a screenshot of what you’ve sent to them with their smartphone.

So think twice about what you text and send over your phone. That extra minute of thought before you press the ‘Send’ button will potentially save you from dealing with a major reputation headache further down the road.

4) Remember, Confidence is Life’s Enabler – it is the Quality that Turns Thoughts into Action

After reading the last three rules you may be fearful to post anything that might offend someone. Don’t be – this article is not meant to dissuade you from being yourself and having your own online ‘voice.’ I’m just advising you of precautionary measures you can take to protect your online reputation in 2016.

Check out this Fast Company article on the 6 Habits of Confident People. Confidence is absolutely life’s enabler — to achieve the goals you have set for yourself in life it is essential. Even if you do make a mistake, don’t beat yourself up for hours on end dwelling on that mistake. Confident people view failure as information, and a valuable life lesson.

So learn from the mistakes others have made and go forth, confident in your ability to own your reputation, both online and off.