Most Internet users have profiles on a wide variety of social networks. Facebook? Of course. Instagram? Definitely. LinkedIn? Absolutely. Twitter? Most likely. Pinterest, Google+, Tumblr, Snapchat, YouTube, OkCupid, Match, etc.: There’s no shortage of choices in places to share your thoughts, upload your photos, connect with friends, and find dates. But each of those services requires you to create a profile to represent yourself to others. How do you know whether your profile is saying good or bad things about you?
While the best way to create and maintain your profile on each of these services varies slightly, what you should be posting to all of them is governed by the same set of common-sense rules. Read on for seven common mistakes users make in their profiles on social networks and dating sites, and make sure that you aren’t guilty of any of them.
1. Not considering whether you should make your profile private
Not every social media profile is one that you want everyone to be able to see. You shouldn’t neglect to consider whether your profiles should be set to private to ensure that your information is viewable only to friends you approve, rather than being left open to employers or prospective employers.
2. Needlessly including your first and last name on every profile
Sometimes you don’t want everyone to be able to find your profile on a social network by your name. (Think networks like Instagram or Tumblr, or, for some users, even places like Twitter. While social networks like Facebook make it largely impossible to use any name other than your legal name, you should consider choosing usernames that keep your private life separate from your public life wherever you can. Even though a tweet, for example, is limited in characters, it can do plenty of damage to your reputation. If you don’t have a compelling reason to be sharing things publicly and in on your own name, then think twice about using your full name.
3. Setting an unprofessional profile photo
If you’re using your full name instead of an alternate username on a profile, by choice or by the policy of the social network, then it’s not one where you should use an unprofessional photo as your profile photo. Think of it this way: If your boss and colleagues can easily find a profile by searching for your name or email address, then you want to make sure that they won’t be alarmed by what they see. If you set that profile to private, you can choose a tame profile photo and share photos that aren’t default-worthy within the profile. But keep in mind that nothing you share online is truly private, so think twice about sharing unprofessional content on any profile associated with your real name.
4. Choosing an old or unflattering photo
Old or bad photos are a mistake whether you’re talking about a profile on an online dating service or one on a career-centered site like LinkedIn. You shouldn’t post a photo from five years ago or ten pounds ago, and you really, really shouldn’t post a grainy cell phone selfie. If it’s a profile your employer might see, stick with something professional. If it’s for a dating profile, choose a clear and recent photo, perhaps of you doing something fun — but not so fun that the memory of the photo being taken is foggy.
5. Allowing your friends and their activity to reflect poorly on you
If you enable your friends to share posts and comments to your profile, then their activity will reflect on you. Viewers like prospective employers are likely to judge you by the comments your friends make on your photos or the jokes they share on your profile. So make sure that your friends aren’t posting any unsavory content. If you need to, you can turn on settings that let you approve any comments or content before they actually appear on your profile.
6. Saying too much or too little in an online dating profile
If your profile is full of cliches and general adjectives, you’re probably saying too little. Instead of relying on adjectives like “adventurous” or “passionate,” give some concrete details on who you are and what you like to do. (Remember, the idea is to share what’s unique about your personality and interests so that prospective dates can figure out if you’re a good match.) Conversely, don’t be too trusting of the people who are viewing your profile. Don’t share personal details that would give away your real identity. And remember that until you’ve actually met a person, you don’t know whom you’re really corresponding with, and it’s wise to err on the side of caution when talking to people online.
7. Using poor grammar and spelling
While it can be tempting to vent on Facebook without bothering to check your spelling, or to caption your Instagram photos in text-friendly abbreviations, both can make a bad impression, or at least annoy your friends or followers. No one expects your statuses to be perfectly edited. But if you’re taking the time to share something with the world, make sure that it’s at least readable.