From time to time I review my speeches and writing, I am sometimes interested in pondering how my views have changed and sometimes hardened over the years. While I have no doubt I said the words, at the time, I did not always know how my path would develop and how my opinions would evolve. For everyone with the opportunity to use the Internet, you get to decide how you will use one of the most potent technology tools ever invented. I am increasingly worried about how young people, particularly considering a future in the legal profession, share information and participate in public forums without thinking about the long-term effects. As a senior at Wesleyan University, I knew I wanted to be a judge, but I wasn’t sure how I was specifically going to make that happen. Looking back at all of today’s technology I can’t imagine how my experience would have been different if I could have communicated with the world from anywhere with my phone. It’s so easy to make a public statement that we sometimes don’t even realize we are doing it.
The Internet never forgets.
During my lectures with law students, I caution about using the Internet wisely. The Internet is great for doing research, educating yourself, and communicating with friends and family. But don’t make it your friend. Be clear about your brand. Protect your privacy. Evaluate what is appropriate to share, far beyond your current situation. As I transitioned from my corporate career to leading CRL Consulting LLC and lecturing, I have maintained my rules for technology to stay balanced and in line with my professional values.
Here are my five tips for managing your online brand:
1. If you wouldn’t say it in the newspaper, don’t say it on the Internet. We all have opinions. Be careful about sharing your private views publicly.
2. Send a handwritten note, not an email. I’m a Southern Belle. I believe in the power of a good, old-fashioned hand-written note. It gives you and the reader more time to appreciate your words because you took time to write instead of type.
3. Set boundaries and keep them. The Internet never sleeps. Decide your limits and maintain your balance. It’s easy to get addicted to technology. Use tools like Boomerang to draft emails to send later. Give yourself some time to reflect.
4. What would your future employer or board nominating committee say? You never know who is promoting you to their network and referring business in your direction. Each post, tweet, and photo you post contributes to your online brand.
5. Technology is a tool, use it wisely. Learn to use technology to enhance your life by helping you to stay organized, setting reminders and responding to emails. As a professional, consider handling your complaints and personal requests offline, confidentially and directly.
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Photo credit: Paul Coker Photography LLC