“I checked my cellphone’s history this morning. Apparently I called my ex last night! Gosh, what I might’ve said? Oh God, let me just die.”
Raise your hand if you’ve drunk-dialed an ex, or at least know a friend who has, and lived to tell the mortifying tale.
Nowadays beyond drunk-dialing you may also drunk-post all over various social media platforms for the whole wide web to witness. Worse is the case for the millennial generation, fueled more by teenage hormones than alcohol, and their outbursts from romantic to political leave digital traces for any future university admission council, employer, partner, neighbor or constituent to discover.
The minors over the state of California soon may not need to worry about that pesky problem. Their legislators have been pushing for the first measure in the United States to grant anyone under the age of 18 the legal right to wash away their online indiscretions. American minors already enjoy the right to have criminal records sealed once they turn adult, now the ones in California can also wipe clean their digital records.
And I bet many adults all over the world will clamor for that privilege, too. The day we step onto the Net, drunk or sober, is the day we start leaving digital traces– be it texts, audios or visuals—then next is the day we wish we haven’t posted, tweeted or uploaded that last update, usually soon followed by intense prayers that nobody will pick it up and send it into a viral frenzy. Yes, you can delete your original posts, but once someone has shared it around it’s impossible to retrace every single proliferation and remove it. Even this new law in California will only grant rights to delete original posts, not to purge every single digital trace out there.
Some of you idealists may argue that Internet is the ultimate realm of freedom, and some of you cynics may question if anyone besides Anthony Weiner or certain Irish teens at a recent music festival (I can see some of you Googling them right away) have got into serious trouble due to their online activities. My answer is simple; yes, the Internet is the pantheon of freedom of expression but no, we cannot control how others choose to react upon our expressions hence yes, we can get into trouble.
And I’m not even talking about the on-going legal case between an Indonesian politician and Twitterati over a Twitter spat last year. For me the new digital law (UU ITE) bears questionable clause that may clamp on one’s freedom to express one’s opinions. What I’m talking about is the repercussions that one may never be aware of.
I consulted for a reputable executive headhunter for a couple of years, and while we used LinkedIn to scour potential candidates to poach, we’d also check on their social media accounts to draw a preliminary profile. If a candidate has been frequently spewing venom on current employer, instead of making him ripe for approach it renders the candidate less desirable because, frankly, nobody wants to hire someone who may publicly badmouthing them 24/7. A creative talent once was dropped from interview process in a rival agency after they saw the talent mocking clients on Twitter—agencies live off clients, however annoying or stupid they may get, and no agency will risk offending, let alone losing clients, no matter how brilliant this new talent could be. I’m all for constructive feedback for any individual or organization, yet I agree that slamming publicly while private channels are available may direct others to overlook your criticism and focus on the unnecessary hurt or shame you bring forth—coincidentally, pretty much what Bill Clinton said on Piers Morgan Show this week on the subject of successfully working across different networks.
As Google is not exclusive to headhunters, similar tales have popped around. An up-and-coming entrepreneur balked out from partnering with someone after got scared off by that person’s blog detailing vile thoughts against a family member. A promising researcher was passed over for a pivotal promotion after the boss discovered petty pictures and foul language this researcher flooding social media with, unsynchronized to the certain prestige attached to the organization.
And the scariest part is none of them ever knew that it was how they presented themselves online that had hindered their steps offline. By being too open, they ironically closed the door to provide background to whatever incriminating thing they’d committed. It’s like they’d used up all the chances they got.
Is it fair? Maybe not. But if anything life teaches me is that sometimes it’s just not fair. We can never control how others react, so it’s up to us how to act. I’m present on a couple of social media but I’ve been almost militant on guarding my privacy including personal pictures, while trying to be conscious on what I spout online, but truthfully who knows what I might’ve incriminated or whom I might’ve alienated myself against so far. Or whether they’d be more damaging than any drunk-dialing could do. No wonder I’ve started seeing some people going Luddite by closing their social media accounts, or maintaining presence only under pseudonym.
Oooh, I can hear some of you packing for California already. Just remember to turn off your Foursquare once you’re there, okay. Poof!