What you do online is easy to see in the offline world and vice-versa.
It seems obvious enough, doesn't it? Yet, with each passing day, I see more and more examples of people who believe that their actions in the offline world won't blend online, or things they do online won't blend into the offline world. It's a staggering realization that most people are simply not media savvy enough to realize the huge indiscretions that they're engaging in. On top of that, they're not self-aware enough to realize the serious ramifications that all of this entails (more on that here: Get More Media Savvy).
A few examples of liar's and other silly activities that damage your reputation...
- Ever have a meeting cancelled by someone only to later find them hanging out on Twitter or Facebook at the time that the meeting was scheduled for? I'm not talking about having a scheduled tweet published during that time. I'm talking about tweets and status updates that are centered around live, social moments. Do these people actually think that the people they cancelled on don't follow them on Twitter or Facebook, etc...?
- I've been seeing and hearing stories of individuals leaving their jobs for another position and giving their former employer one reason for the change only to see online chattering that tells a very different story. While bravado and self-promotion is a natural part of the online personal brand building experience, it's sill amateur to think that employers aren't networked and connected and seeing these stories.
- In a similar sense, I've been regaled by industry peers with stories of employees quitting and saying that they're going to a certain type of company only to find out a couple of weeks later (due to an updated LinkedIn profile or the like) that they were - outright - lying about the new position and company they're moving to.
Exaggeration and shielding oneself is a normal posture.
As an employer, it's heartbreaking to see the lying online. You put your trust in people and hope (even if it's an awkward or a difficult moment in time) that they're going to be a good, kind and responsible human beings by telling the truth. As someone who was once an employee (and, in truth, I guess I am still an employee to my book publisher, talent bureau, newspaper publishers, etc...), I understand how hard it is to quit. Our natural instinct is to shield ourselves from that panic and stress. Once it's done, that feeling of freedom pushes us to scream about it from the mountaintops, but a reputation does not have an online and an offline life... it's simply a reputation.
Lying is as lying does.
We're quick to call out brands that exaggerate, change the rules (and yes, some of them lie too), but it's a much murkier situation when it's an individual. The challenge here is in understanding that the world is full of instances where any one individual "doesn't know what they don't know." When a meeting is cancelled and the person is futzing around on Twitter, perhaps the person who they cancelled on knows and speaks to this individual's other clients (what does that do to a reputation?). When a person tells an employer that they're leaving for one reason but the truth is uncovered via their tweets and online updates, maybe the former employer is actually friends with the senior managers of the new company? (what does that do to a reputation?).
We have to be careful. We have to be vigilant.
This isn't about figuring out how to cover the tracks of your lies both online and offline. This is about understanding the dynamics of an online persona and how it blends so completely with who you are. There is no offline and online "you"... there is only "you." And, in the dark of night, when you're lying in bed, you have to think long and hard about whether you're doing your best to be your best or if you're spending your time weaving webs of complexities that is doing ultimate damage to your reputation (and no one else). In the majority of the examples above, I'd guess that the individuals don't realize how much true damage they're doing to their own reputation (and their future)... because the people they're doing it to will never tell them that they got busted.
It may sound scary, but the world needs more cautionary tales.