BY EMILIA PAULUS  – In the past few months, we have seen examples of how your online presence can either make or break you, with so many young people getting into trouble as a result of reckless behaviour on line.

With the information age evolving constantly, nearly everyone is online. It is important that people realise that the responsibility and accountability for internet use lies solely with the individual.

The term “digital footprint” is used to describe traces left behind in the process of using social media and other digital technologies. This may include a trail of all the information about a person either shared by that person or others, either intentionally or unintentionally.

The advent of social media has benefited our lives in many ways, from guaranteed access to information and freedom of expression to advanced career and business opportunities.  However, if not used well, it can cost you all of these.

Do the following headlines ring a bell?

‘I lost my job over a Facebook post- was that fair?’ 

‘US journalist, 25, is thrown in hellhole Zimbabwe jail and faces 20 years for tweet mocking Mugabe despite someone ELSE admitting it was them and CONTINUING to insult the ‘goblin’ president while she is behind bars’

NAMAs bans Blossom for 12 months,

Well, these are just some of countless other headlines I have seen in the mainstream media in the past few months.

Based on these reports, it is such a shame that people tend to confuse freedom of speech with freedom to hate speech. Generally, the omnipresence nature of the internet makes us insensitive in the way we conduct ourselves on line.

It is about time we start to realise that just as is it in the analogue world, one’s digital footprints are traceable and they play a role in shaping other people’s perceptions of who we are.

Think of the internet as a market place and your online profile/s as products that you are selling. With everything you search, post, share, tag, retweet etc., are you representing your products accurately?  Better yet, are you communicating a consistent message about your brand? Because it is these aspects that consumers consider when making decisions of whether or not to buy your product. So, in actual fact, everything boils down to how you are using your online presence to ultimately build your personal brand and really making sure that your digital footprints are saying the right things about you.

Many would argue that using privacy settings and deletion and editing options will prevent tracking but the fact that everything we do online is documented, makes it impossible for one to have privacy on line.

It is for this reason that, users are always advised to constantly monitor their actions on line because digital footprints stamp on everything you do.

In a nut shell, what you post or share online can have a long-term consequence because once something is out there, it is almost impossible to get it back. So, think, and also verify, before you post, comment, share, repost, retweet or tag.

 Emilia Paulus is the Project Officer – Monitoring & Implementation at NMT