"What you do speaks so loud, that I cannot hear what you say."
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
In today's environment, Emerson's words might be interpreted this way: The behavioral algorithms are so good it may not matter what your profile or social resume says about you--your behavior trumps everything! Your ever-expanding digital DNA is a reflection of you and everyone from investigative agencies to marketing and research companies are getting better and better at figuring out exactly who you are and what you like or don't like, no matter who you say you are. A simple set of algorithms applied to your Facebook page for instance can determine your ethnicity, political affiliation, socio-economic level, sexuality, drug-use habits and even if your parents separated when you were young. These same algorithms are capable of predicting personality types and emotional stability... or the lack thereof. Early efforts at this science have even shown a correlation with people liking certain foods having higher IQ's while liking a particular page on Facebook might be an indicator for drug use--pages that don't have anything whatsoever to do with drugs or the related culture.
Personal data is big business and with the effort being put into psychometrics, it's only a matter of time before our personal data is routinely being exploited for commercial gain and more. The truth is, it's already happening. Take Facebook's own EdgeRank system, which is their proprietary scoring system based on algorithms they use to determine which objects show up in your News Feed. In other words, it is their attempt to optimize the news feed to show relevant content predicated on your previous activities on Facebook. Any chance the ads you're seeing are a result of those same algorithms? Count on it. Whether Facebook was the first or not really doesn't matter--they positively won't be the last! More and more companies are employing similar technology and in spite of your best efforts with privacy settings and careful online interactions: people are looking, will find you and already know more about you than you might think! And as the science improves, those same people will know even more. Scary, huh?
In the meantime, you should be hyper-vigilant about your privacy settings and make certain that you are in control of the controllables. Algorithms notwithstanding, personal visibility remains crucial on both a personal and professional level--every effort should be made to control your personal narrative. Marketing companies aside, your friends, neighbors, co-workers, customers and damn near everyone you encounter on a professional level are looking at and for you online--a helluva lot more often than you might think! What kind of impression do you make? Given that your online visibility is available around-the-clock to anyone choosing to look, you should be making the same online effort that you make in your face-to-face life in terms of presentibility. In other words, your online profile should be the equivalent of that all important meeting or social event that you have to attend. You know the one... you put on your best looking outfit, you're on your best behavior and you make your best effort to impress. Yes, we all do it!
Isn't it time for your online image to match your offline persona? Seriously.
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