Social media and employers: If you run, they will find you


I can't pinpoint the exact moment, but there was a point in all of our lives when suddenly everyone started telling us to be careful about what we put on the Internet. "It's going to be there forever," they said, an inconspicuous group of adults, parents, professors, etc. "Don't put anything up you wouldn't want your grandmother to read," they said.
Ain't that the truth. I have always been generally wary of never putting anything racy or politically incorrect on my profile page. Whether that's Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn - whatever. Politely untagging myself from pictures I was even slightly unsure about. My junior year, I made all of my photos and tags private so that no matter which buffoon decided to tag me in a YouTube cat video or a picture from our adventures that weekend, no one would see it but me.
Senior year, I went as far as changing my name from "Stacey Way" to "Anastasia Sophia" on Facebook and my other accounts so that I could just avoid the Facebook-and future-employer-tango all together. I am here to tell you that it doesn't work. If you run, they will find you.
I had a job interview with a PR company based in Chicago on a Friday. By Monday, low and behold, I had a friend request from my interviewer. And someone who I believe was from their HR, of which I have since confirmed on LinkedIn. I'm sure they only wanted to send me awkward cat videos, not rake my profile for the ticks and fleas that could make me un-hirable (I'm looking at you, girl with profile picture double-fisting handles of Skohl and dribble on your shirt. Take it down!)
There were few things I actually had to remove. I took down my Tupac and Marilyn Monroe quotes, changed a few photo captions from "Me and Dufus" to "Me and my brother" and made everything as private as I could. It was Twitter though that hit me the hardest. In general, I try to avoid tweeting pictures of sushi and how annoying it is when I can't match all of my socks. When I had someone ask me outright what my Twitter handle was, I knew doomsday had finally come.
I think about my tweets before I send them. I try to make them worthy of slowing down as my followers flip through their feed with their thumbs, rapid-fire. Usually it's with humor, my attempt at it, or a picture that moved me and I think could move others. Okay realistically it's mostly goofy stuff, but I try to make it something worth reading. It's a double-edge sword though, as demonstrating wit at the cost of being strange, politically incorrect or inappropriate is not worth it.
Though it was painful, I decided that it was in my best interest to delete tweets about gang signs, fat girls and tiny backpacks and elves baking cookies in trees. To give you some perspective, I had 666 tweets when I started spring cleaning (you don't forget a number like that), and now I'm at a homey 572-ish. It was that questionable. But it was worth it.
I have had several potential employers find me on all my social media, and I am happy to say that I am okay with it. I've even shared a good laugh with one over it. It is possible to clean up your online image and still preserve your personality, especially since our generation is going to be counted on to do the majority of social media when we enter the work-sphere.

- Way is a senior from Long Grove, Ill. majoring in English writing and communication.