"I googled him but nothing came up," Lisa said to me, "isn't that weird?".
"Yes." I had to agree.
She was serving on the hiring committee for a job in our office, and wanted to learn more about one of the candidates. And I get it, with all the hype about your personal information and privacy issues and how all of your material could be used by corporations or employers, one possible reaction to all of this is to hide out in a digital bunker on lockdown. But Lisa's impression of this invisible candidate and his digital quietude was not good. "I mean, he doesn't have a social media presence. Like, at all," she said with disbelief.
This is Not Smart
Today, being invisible online is akin to being invisible in general. It is expected to be able to find information about you online, and if we don't see you online, that's such an anomaly that it causes concern. What are you hiding? Who are you really? How do we know that you're going to be a good employee?
Why are you Hiding?
My first question when I encounter a professional with a lack of online presence is why. Some people are concerned about privacy, some people just can't be bothered, and some aren't sure how to structure their online lives and so they just...don't. Start by googling yourself, and see what comes up. Nothing? Then ask yourself, why? Is it because you're deliberately avoiding putting your information online or just because you haven't gotten around to putting yourself out there? If it's the former, think about the opportunity cost of hiding your digital information before you go further. If it's the latter, great! Let's fix that.
A Better Way
Even if you're concerned about the presence of your personal information online, the best way to go is to share information that you DO want others to see about you. Flood the social media market with good stuff about you, things that would help others get to know you a bit, an indication of your personality or at least your professional skills or abilities or interests.
Choose your Platforms
If you're worried about how you appear online, I like LinkedIn because it's a strictly professional space. You can choose a professional-looking photo without uploading lots of photos of you with friends or what you had for dinner, and you can share information about you like where you went to school and what skills you have.
I also generally advise those who are reluctant with social media to create a profile on Twitter. Your profile can be simple, but demonstrates that you have a connectivity to the digital world and can share some information about you in a professional context. For example, follow users or companies in your professional field, or simply retweet posts that you find interesting.
Create your own
You can avoid social media and still have a digital presence by creating a personal website. Grab a domain name (some version of your name .me or .com works great), or even just create your first name and last name as a website through Wix, Weebly, Wordpress, or another free platform. Use it to post a short summary of your skills, your professional bio, perhaps a summary or copy of your resume, or even samples of your work. Then you'll show up on google, but on your terms, and sharing the information that can showcase your best professional self.