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What goes online, stays online: How a negative digital footprint can affect your life

Alina BÎZGĂ

March 17, 2022

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What goes online, stays online: How a negative digital footprint can affect your life

Have you ever thought about the consequences of a rude comment, bad tweet, or that drunken photo you were tagged in years ago?

The marks we leave online can come back to haunt us. Unlike a positive digital footprint that helps solidify a good online reputation, a negative digital trail can cost you opportunities in all areas of life.

How users create negative digital footprints

Ruining your online reputation is easier than you think. It only takes a single viral bad tweet to end your career, or irresponsible onscreen behavior to ruin your college application or dream job.

Your community, friends, family and even your boss can potentially see everything you share or do online. Negative comments, reviews, lewd pictures and trolling can harm you and your family’s reputation no matter how long ago the actions took place.

Although much of this online harm is self-inflicted, your online reputation is also influenced by the actions of other digital citizens you interact with on social media – a notorious avenue of intimidation and cyberbullying.

According to a recent survey, 75% of adults in the US who googled themselves said the results they found were not positive. Of course, teens and young adults between the ages of 16 and 24 are less careful with the information they post online than those over 25. People in the younger category also pay less attention to their online privacy and tend to engage in more unruly behavior, including posting more sensitive videos or photos online.

While most internet users are unsure what personal information is available online, a quarter of them say personal photos and the names of groups they belong to have appeared on the internet. Most troubling though, 43% of online adults don’t worry about their personal information online and are passive when it comes to limiting their digital footprint.

Impact of negative digital footprints

Poor online choices can bring damaging consequences in the real world, including:

  • Affect someone’s opinion or perspective of you, and ruin friendships and romantic relationships
  • Impact your college admissions - college admissions officers visit an applicant’s social media profile including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube to learn more about them
  • Ruin your scholarship opportunities – any distasteful material or immature posts could prevent you or your child from getting one
  • Affect your chances of getting a job or promotion – employers often search online for candidates applying for a position in the company, and a messy digital footprint could cost you that position you were hoping for
  • Put your financial security at risk – sharing too much personal information online could make you a victim of criminals. Posting sensitive information could bring identity thieves on your tail, and sharing sensitive media files could make you a victim of stalking or blackmail

How Bitdefender can help you clean up a negative digital footprint and protect your privacy

Creating a positive digital footprint can be hard work, especially for users with increased social media activity and careless online behavior.

Taking control of your online privacy and cleaning up a messy digital footprint are key to protecting not just your online reputation, but your family’s as well.

With Bitdefender Digital Identity Protection, you can investigate the digital trail linked to your email address and phone number. The privacy-focused tool maps out your digital footprint and allows you to review the amount of publicly available information, including old accounts you may have forgotten.

On top of minimizing the trail of personal data, you can take crucial steps to protect your privacy via real-time data breach monitoring, and even thwart social media doppelgangers that could ruin your reputation.

Remember, you’re in control of what you post and share online. So, always stop to think whether or not the photo, tweet, or comment you leave behind on the internet is in your best interest.

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