I got _another_ media inquiry.
Summary: How does on-line reputation matter? What can you do if your reputation is being trashed?
Hmmm. It is interesting how many of these queries seem to be “how-to.” There is the famous case of the Facebook suicide, but such stories do more to illustrate our fears than capture the reality of most people most of the time. My first thought to protect your reputation is to have a reputation worth protecting.
You might ask Greta Polites and Eric Santanen also. (In my department.)
I have this book and have not read it but it seems relevant.
It must be possible to spend a lot of time surveilling one’s on-line profile. “Google myself” is a verb and a state of mind. How is the “me” I know being seen in cyberspace? But I think if you obsess about it, it says more about you than the world. Judging by the generally low level of negative feedback on eBay transactions, or in Amazon ratings, or in other open reputation systems (by open, I mean where any user can comment on an identifiable user). As opposed to the Hobbesian dog eat dog world we often imagine, when we look at most interactions, even on-line, it is kind of boring in the sense that most people are OK and not trying to cheat others for gain or trash them for a sick kind of fun. There are of course a few exceptions.
For those times when you are worried about how you are being presented, I would think about the audience before reacting. If an employer or consulting prospect is concerned or I think they can see negative comments, offer up your own list of recommenders for them to contact directly. Offer several. This would mean more than written letters. If the negativity comes from anonymous systems, you can delicately point out that such attacks are not very reputable and cowardly. On systems like LinkedIn, have people who will speak on your behalf noted so that a prospective contact can link to them easily. Include contacts form multiple jobs over your career. If those people are not on, take this moment to be a technology maven and encourage them to sign up.