Once upon a time a person’s reputation was relatively easy to control. The internet has changed all of that. While, in the “old days” it could take days or even weeks for a rumor to become widespread enough to truly damage a person’s reputation (giving them time to get ahead of the situation and do damage control) today a reputation can be killed in mere minutes.

It’s partly because our information is so readily available now. Data brokers and social media have made it possible to learn pretty much anything you want about anybody you want at any time you want to learn it. There are several articles by Michael Fertik (an expert in reputation management and protection) about this and what it means for our future.

Unfortunately this level of scrutiny is not something to which the average person is accustomed. It’s hard to deal with a sudden rush of anger over something you said offhandedly that goes viral almost before you’re done saying it. It’s not uncommon, then, for the average person to over react to this poke at their reputation and blow the entire situation out of proportion (known as The Streisand Effect).

At the same time, the advice you were given in middle school to just “ignore it until it goes away” isn’t going to work anymore either. This is the age of the Internet where everything can live forever. So what do you do? How do you handle attacks to your reputation? How do you make sure that your reputation remains as good and highly regarded as possible?

It’s worth noting that there are several different services that offer to help you professionally manage your reputation. These services, obviously, come at a cost. It might seem ridiculous to pay someone or for something that monitors your reputation and helps you keep it positive. At the same time, depending on who you are and what your future goals might be, it could be worth it!

Imagine the following scenario: you’re at lunch with a friend and make an offhanded comment. That friend thinks it’s funny and puts the comment up on Twitter with a link to your Twitter profile. That tweet gets retweeted over and over and over and eventually finds its way in front of someone who finds it offensive (the time frame for this is usually less than 24 hours).

That person posts an angry rant about your comment, uses your real name in the post. Someone else sees the post, agrees with the blogger, writes something of his own and posts not just your name but your contact information. Someone reads that, uses your contact information to figure out where you work and files a complaint about you with your boss.

By this time your actual comment has been paraphrased, rephrased and mutated into something that does not even begin to resemble what you actually said and is now much worse—enough worse that your boss puts you on probation because, as an employee of the company, you’ve caused the company harm with your comments.

It happens more often than you think! How is that reputation management service looking now?