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Do You Damage Others' Online Reputations? How to Tell

Mar 23, 2011 Jennifer Williamson, Distance Columnist | 0 Comments

Criticizing someone face-to-face or to a friend or colleague is one thing. Only the person you’re speaking to will hear the comment verbatim, and most people hold back at least a little—for fear that the target of their complaints will find out what they’re saying about them. But on the Internet, you can “rate” and evaluate almost anyone in your life anonymously, in a forum where coworkers, bosses, friends and family can see—and no one will ever know it’s you.

The Internet is full of websites that allow you to dish on others—without disclosing your own identity. But online reviews like these can do real harm to someone’s reputation. Employers can see them as easily as anyone else—and may use the sites to judge and evaluate worker performance. In addition, you can inadvertently hurt a friend’s online reputation with a thoughtless Facebook post or picture tag. Here are just a few ways you may be seriously harming someone’s reputation online—whether you mean to or not.

Rating your teachers. Websites like and allow you to give your teachers and professors ratings and leave anonymous comments. Some of the time, these comments are positive, constructive and helpful. But the space can also be used as an opportunity
to vent against a teacher you dislike. Bear in mind that principals and administrative heads
can look at their teachers’ ratings as well as students can—and some may take
these into account when evaluating teacher performance. If you’re going to leave
a review, don’t just vent— make it fair.

Woman Computer Shocked

The things you post online tend to hang around a long time. They can come up in Google searches for years after the event that made you mad enough to complain has blown over.



Posting unflattering photos on Facebook

Maybe you had a great time at the bar with your friends last night—but think twice before tagging them in the photos the next morning.  You never know which of your friends is connected to coworkers and bosses via Facebook—and some of them may not want work acquaintances to see them swinging from the chandeliers. In general, think before you tag—would this person want to display this picture? Is it unflattering, or does it display unflattering behavior? Would I want a picture like this of me up on my profile? 

Rating your coworkers

A new site called allows you to rate your friends, coworkers, and anyone else you’re connected to on Facebook or LinkedIn, anonymously. The site allows you to leave comments and evaluate people’s performance on a five-point scale.  In times when employers are social-media savvy and often use a potential or current employee’s activities on social media sites to decide who gets hired, promoted, and let go, negative anonymous comments can do significant damage to someone’s career. If you’re going to rate someone on these sites, don’t do it lightly.

Being too frank on Facebook

Even if you’re not posting pictures, posting the wrong thing in public can damage someone’s online reputation. Avoid leaving snarky comments, jokes about work on your friends’ Facebook wall. Avoid hash-tagging friends of yours in your own comments about work. You never know which friends are connected to coworkers—and an innocent remark online about something your friend said to you in person could easily be seen by people your friend works with.

Blogging about people—using their real names or identifying information

Blogs can also cause serious problems for people. A negative blog post about someone can easily balloon out of control, with others linking to it and quoting from it all over the web until it’s the first thing someone sees when searching for the victim’s name. Of course, using the person’s full name or including obvious identifying information makes it worse. If you absolutely must write negative things about someone else in your blog, at least protect that person’s identity.

The things you post online tend to hang around a long time. They can come up in Google searches for years after the event that made you mad enough to complain has blown over. And employers see those comments—and sometimes take them seriously. No matter how irate you are at someone, bear in mind that making comments about them online can have serious consequences for that person. Before making an anonymous post, give yourself some time to cool down—and decide whether it’s really worth it to comment.

Keep Online Reputation Intact


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