Your online image is more important than ever -- here are 5 ways it can make or break you

You’re hardly the only person who’s ever Google-stalked a crush or scoured a future employer’s Facebook page. In fact, there’s a really good chance that the person or the company has done exactly the same reconnaissance on you.

What they find can have a profound impact on your relationship (or potential relationship) with them. Which is to say: The “real you,” or your personal brand, now encompasses your behaviour in face-to-face interactions and your behaviour online.

Below, Business Insider has rounded up five examples of times when you might be judged — fairly or unfairly — based on your online presence.

60% of employers use social media to screen job candidates

That's according to a 2016 CareerBuilder survey of 2,186 hiring managers and human resource professionals. It's a meaningful increase from the previous year, when the survey found that 52% of employers reported using social media to screen candidates.

Meanwhile, 59% of employers said they use search engines to research candidates.

Interestingly, just 21% of employers surveyed said they're looking for reasons to disqualify the candidates, such as information about those candidates drinking or using drugs. Most employers -- 60% -- are looking for something that supports their qualifications, such as a professional portfolio.

Remember, too: You're hardly out of the woods once you get hired somewhere. As many as 41% of employers in the CareerBuilder survey said they use social media to research current employees -- and 26% have found something that's caused them to reprimand or dismiss an employee.

Nearly half of single women research someone on Facebook before a first date

And 38% of men say they do the same, according to a 2013 survey by online dating site Match.

If something unsavoury does come up, 49% of women and 27% of men say it would motivate them to the cancel the date.

Some people seem to have caught on -- just over a quarter of single men and women say they have cleaned up or would clean up their Facebook profile before accepting a friend request from someone they were interested in.

About half of married Brits have secretly checked their partner's Facebook account

A 2015 survey organised by law firm Slater and Gordon found that one in five of the Facebook snoopers ended up fighting about what they found -- and one in seven have considered divorce because of it.

Distressing findings, according to the survey, included contact with an ex-partner, secret correspondence, and inappropriate photos.

As Andrea Newbury, head of family law at Slater and Gordon, said in a release:

'Five years ago Facebook was rarely mentioned in the context of a marriage ending, but now it has become common place for clients to cite social media use, or something they discovered on social media, as a reason for divorce.'

35% of colleges have looked at an applicant's social-media presence

Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Education company Kaplan recently surveyed 365 colleges across the United States and found that 35% said they'd checked out an applicant's activity on networks including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to learn more about them. (Interestingly, that number is down from 40% the year prior.)

About half of those colleges said they'd found something that boosted the applicant's chances -- for example, one student had won an award and posted a photo of her with her school principal.

But about half of those colleges said they'd found something that hurt the applicant's chances -- for example, one student had posted a picture of him 'brandishing weapons.'

People who constantly post selfies on Facebook may have weaker real-life relationships

'This is because people, other than very close friends and relatives, don't seem to relate well to those who constantly share photos of themselves,' David Houghton said in a release.

The findings are based on a 2013 study led by Houghton, a lecturer at the University of Birmingham, and his colleagues.

As Ben Marder, another author on the study, put it: 'Be cautious when sharing and think how it will be perceived by all the others who may see it. Although sharing is a great way to better relationships, it can also damage them.'

This is an update of an article originally posted by Judith Aquino and Kim Bhasin.

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