Sunday, October 10, 2010

Your Digital Footprint

During the 2008 Presidential Campaign when various "scandals" were coming to the light, I remember thinking, "Wooooowww. they are really pulling stuff out from waaaaay back.. videos of old pastor's sermons, cigarette habits, a troublesome community college experience... *cough Palin cough*."

And then another thought occcured to me. These people had scandals, skeletons, and dirt that our media hounds were able to dig up from the 70's... what will it be like when my generation gets around 35, the electable age? It could get reeeaaaaaalllly ugly, when we pull out drunk tweets, old Facebook statuses, sloppy birthday party photo albums.

The majority of the folks I hang out with are around 22-35. I'm almost 25, and I remember when Howard first received access to Facebook. This was back before photo albums and status updates. You got to put up ONE picture, there was no Farmville, no event messages, and certainly no zombies. Ah, the glory days. We had a wall and pokes, and that was good enough. But anyway... Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, Gchat, and other lesser social networks have become a way of life for folks my age. It's the only way I know so-and-so got married, and so-and-so is gay now... and so forth. It's an easy way to share information, no doubt about it. It's also something you don't have to really think to do. And that's the problem...

Most people don't really think when they put up a Facebook or Twitter status update. People typically invest much more time typing the message than they invest in thinking about what to say. I certainly don't put a lot of thought into most of mine. At the moment, it may be funny to say, "These drunk bitches look like they might give it up tonight... FTW!", but who wants to be confronted by this tweet in the 2024 election for DC Mayor? NO one.

Let's say you don't have such lofty aspirations; you want to be a mother/father, maybe a representative on the School Board, and a Sales Manager. You still have an issue. Have you seen that commercial with the little Asian girl making a slideshow about Windows 7? Sure, the 8 year old probably didn't actually make it, but I doubt the commercial represented a broad leap from her actual abilities.

Children are becoming more and more computer savvy. That little Asian child could be your kid, and instead of making Windows 74 slideshows, she's perusing your drunken Homecoming 2009 tweets! What would she find?

I'm not suggesting that you should become a Rev Run type of "Tweeter" or make all your Facebook statuses Bible verses. I'm also not saying you should elect to put out a misrepresentation of who you are. If you like to get it in, well... do you! If you're comfortable with everyone knowing who you're dating, share! However, I am saying "Think before you type." Anything you don't want to get out, you shouldn't write, and you certainly shouldn't publish. Once its out there, it's there to stay. We don't know how accessible this stuff will be in years to come, so all I can say is, err on the side of caution. You don't really "know" your audience, whether your Tweets are private or not.

Look back at your last 5 Facebook statuses. Look back at your Twitter timeline from today. I'll wait.

If you were to die, right now... what would your online legacy be? Would you be proud of what it said? Would it show the good side of you, the bad, the ugly? All of the above?

I say live with no regrets. But don't leave your litter lying around.