The Internet is forever. In many ways, that’s awesome because you have access to information, articles, scandals, movies, and all sorts of other things, even if they happened decades ago. However, if you share an embarrassing photo, a questionable opinion, or a negative status update, it will stick around forever as well—even when you think it’s gone.

Delete, Delete, Delete

Delete delete deleteImage via Flickr by M i x y

If you’re worried about your online reputation because you’re applying for a new job, launching a business, or building a brand, start deleting right now. If you don’t delete those inappropriate photos or not-so-nice opinions, someone will find them and they will share them. When you gain any kind of notoriety on the Internet, people start researching you and there are cyber sleuths who can find anything, even that detailed blog post you wrote about that really bad thing you did during Spring Break back in 2006. Make sure you start delete before that interview or the big launch.

Seek Out Security

If you wait to go on a delete rampage, someone’s going to take screenshots of all the things you’re trying to hide. If you’re worried that something might slip under the radar, seek help. Tweet is great for news on how people are  protecting their reputations. Sometimes you can’t do it alone. Your online reputation is everything these days, even if you aren’t Internet famous in any way. Get help when you need it, especially if you’re not sure what’s floating around in cyberspace.

Understand the Permanency of the Internet

As you start building your reputation, or at least making it better, remember that everything online lasts forever. It never really goes away, because even if you delete certain things, there are still ways to find them. In many ways, the Internet is like a time machine; there are sites which keep records of deleted posts, pages, and message boards. Just because you think something is gone forever doesn’t mean it’s true.

Think Before You Post

Given these facts, you have to think before you post. Standing up for yourself and your beliefs is important, but there are also tactful ways to share your opinion. You never know who’s watching or reading, so don’t post incendiary opinions. Don’t curse, don’t insult other people, don’t spread hatred, and don’t bully other people. Your behavior will come back to haunt you.

Keep Your Personal Life Private

It’s crucial to keep your personal life as private as you can. It’s bad enough that the wrong person can stumble upon your birth date or address and use that information for criminal activities. If you share too much, you put yourself and your family at risk. You also run the risk of allowing fans, followers, and strangers to know too much about you. If you have personal accounts on Facebook and Twitter, a blog, or a personal web page, keep those things private. Use your security features and never accept friend or follow requests from anyone you don’t know.

Smart cyber practices keep you safe and they make you look good to the people who follow you online. What’s the biggest mistake you’ve ever made when sharing pictures or posts?