A new Pew Internet & American Life Project report “Reputation Management and Social Media” discusses the issue of privacy and online reputations. (The results in this report are based on data from telephone interviews of a total sample of 2,253 adults, age 18 and older, conducted in August and September 2009.)
Young adults, far from being indifferent about their digital footprints, are the most active online reputation managers in several dimensions. For example, more than two-thirds (71%) of social networking users ages 18-29 have changed the privacy settings on their profile to limit what they share with others online.
Reputation management has now become a defining feature of online life for many internet users, especially the young. While some internet users are careful to project themselves online in a way that suits specific audiences, other internet users embrace an open approach to sharing information about themselves and do not take steps to restrict what they share.
The report details other trends:
- Online reputation-monitoring via search engines has increased – 57% of adult internet users now use search engines to find information about themselves online, up from 47% in 2006.
- Activities tied to maintaining an online identity have grown as people post information on profiles and other virtual spaces – 46% of online adults have created their own profile on a social networking site, up from just 20% in 2006.
- Monitoring the digital footprints of others has also become much more common—46% of internet users search online to find information about people from their past, up from 36% in 2006. Likewise, 38%% have sought information about their friends, up from 26% in 2006.
The report also explains why one’s online reputation is important: “44% of online adults have searched for information about someone whose services or advice they seek in a professional capacity. People are now more likely to work for an employer that has policies about how they present themselves online and co-workers and business competitors now keep closer tabs on one another. Those who are dating are more likely to research their potential mates online. And even neighbors have become more curious about finding information about one another online.”