Before you read this article, do this: Look at the last thing you posted to Facebook or Instagram, tweeted on Twitter or updated on LinkedIn.
What if that was really the last thing you ever posted, commented on or tweeted?
Social media offers us a real-time, constant flow of commentary, opinion, humor and frustration as we post our thoughts and information online. While we typically don't think that what we post could become part of our legacy, in reality, it could.
When Kobe Bryant died recently, his fans, friends and commentators pointed to all the ways his legacy would live on. They spoke to his performance on the basketball court, the ways he advanced the sport, his passion for his family, his investment in his community and the person he was to his friends.
Then, images of the last thing Bryant ever posted online began flooding the internet. In his last tweet, Bryant called out and congratulated his friend and colleague, LeBron James (aka "King James"), who had just passed him on the NBA career scoring list. Bryant's last message on social media was one of grace and celebration.
Consider the Impact of What You Post
Your online posts should be consistent with your job goals and career path, and they should support who you are as a person -- your values, dreams and personal brand.
If you post things that are upsetting and offensive to your target audience, your behavior might limit your career opportunities. Your boss could find your online post concerning and reprimand you. You could be fired for disparaging the company or your peers. Hiring managers might not want to interview you if you rant about sensitive topics.
Your online activity also indicates who you are as a person -- what you stand for, believe in and care about. They indicate the priorities in your life and what you value.
In Bryant's case, he often posted about his pride in his daughters, his love of basketball and his support of others who were living their values and pursuing their dreams.
Your Legacy Is More Than Your Social Media Posts
Along the same lines, refrain from focusing all of your efforts on how you appear to others online. It's tempting to become distracted by the number of "likes" and "shares" of the information you post. Instead, recognize that online activity is one piece of the puzzle that tells others who you are.
The ways you behave in person are a huge part of what others believe to be true about you. How you act, with whom you associate, where you spend your time and the way you treat other people forms your legacy. As your actions build your personal brand, your online activity should consistently support the perception.
That's how you build a credible personal brand.
Legacy is about consistency, not perfection. Creating a dazzling online persona does not make you special, interesting or relevant if your behavior in person is completely contrary. Strive to ensure your online activity supports, enhances and advances the messages, relationships and behavior you display in person to create a legacy that is worth remembering.
Every time you post, comment, share or tweet, ask yourself: If this was the last thing I posted online, would it reflect who I was, how I lived my life and what I valued?
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