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No second chances in the digital age?
July 25, 2010 12:02 PM   Subscribe

The Web Never Forgets. Are youthful indiscretion verboten in this digital age? As we grow and move forward - we make mistakes, we say things we later regret, or we change our mind about stuff all the time. But in era where even the things we actrually mean to say, can be taken out of context, posted, and used as a political weapon, is there room for just being silly online anymore?
posted by helmutdog (105 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
My hope is that eventually campaigning politicians will be on the defensive about how tame the pictures of their past are.

"I can assure you that I was, indeed, involved in the drunken, nude, potato sack races of 2015. Due to circumstances beyond my control, my batteries in my camera were not functional. I apologize for all the pain this has caused my family and I thank them for standing by me through this trying time."
posted by ODiV at 12:07 PM on July 25, 2010 [23 favorites]


Verboten.

Then again, its for this generation to decide what to do with the Interwebz when they are adults
posted by infini at 12:11 PM on July 25, 2010


I think the era of privacy is over. There's this guy I know, a minor media personality. He's a really nice guy but like most of us he did some things in his youth that he now regrets. Before the era of the internet, what he did or did not do in 1990 would swiftly be forgotten, but now those rumours will continue to follow him around.
posted by atrazine at 12:18 PM on July 25, 2010 [6 favorites]


I often think about this. I don't doubt that if I were ever placed in a position that made me an Important Person it wouldn't take a whole lot of prowess to connect me with my MetaFilter name (and other internet accounts).

In my last relationship I used to sometimes think about how I would describe the relationship to the next person I dated. In retrospect, that was a pretty bad indicator.

Sometimes when I post on the internet I think about how I'll explain it when someone confronts me years down the line...
posted by resiny at 12:18 PM on July 25, 2010


My real identity is already sullied by this article when anyone googles my full name. I still think it's a pretty good triumph so long as future employers view it benignly.
posted by Christ, what an asshole at 12:27 PM on July 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Any organisation that fires me for a picture of drunken or debauched behaviour doesn't deserve to have me as an employee.

and their Christmas parties would suck.
posted by knapah at 12:28 PM on July 25, 2010 [17 favorites]


For the record, Velveteen gets far more plays from me than Narrow Stairs ever will.
posted by anifinder at 12:36 PM on July 25, 2010


Any organisation that fires me for a picture of drunken or debauched behaviour doesn't deserve to have me as an employee.
This kind of comment always strikes me as reflecting a lot of... something. I don't know. Class privilege, maybe? Or just general obliviousness about the constraints on people's career decisions? Not everyone is in a position to decide her or she doesn't want a job because the bosses or HR are irritating prudes.
posted by craichead at 12:38 PM on July 25, 2010 [18 favorites]


I don't know, don't Japanese companies require you to be able to hang out with the guys every night drinking your guts out?
posted by infini at 12:44 PM on July 25, 2010


Any organisation that fires me for a picture of drunken or debauched behaviour doesn't deserve to have me as an employee.

Any (landlord/bank) who would kick you out for not paying the (rent/mortgage) doesn't deserve to have you for a (tenant/house) owner.
posted by griphus at 12:44 PM on July 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


As is often the case, the NYT article is interesting and often even insightful, but it sees things from a city perspective, and from the slightly cloistered viewpoint that imposes. The fact is that, as Faulkner would put it, by nature there is no "was," and this forgetting about the past, this forgetting of "youthful indiscretions," is not a natural human thing. Even in basically advanced human societies, everyone knew each other, and what any person did publicly at the age of fifteen and sixteen was known at least implicitly by anyone who interacted with them.

The thing is that the whole "can't we just forget about mistakes?" deal is a sublimation of the real problem. We're not pointing the accusation in the right direction. Forgetfulness is not the ideal when it comes to youthful indiscretion, as much as we in our self-loathing and shame may feel it is. The ideal is forgiveness. And forgiveness, mercy, love, and compassion have been necessary hallmarks of every good and noble society since time began, regardless of the fact that in most of those societies (as in the vast majority of societies that have hitherto existed) people you met tended to know you, and tended to be aware of embarrassing shit you'd done when you were seventeen.

The unfortunate, disturbing, and in fact frightening fact that this article is glossing over is this: we live in the most shaming, guilt-tripping, hurtful, intentionally damaging society that has ever existed. Details about a person that ought to be accepted and even embraced with love are hauled out and mocked mercilessly. Minor mistakes are psychologized and moralized and penalized as indicative of their quality and worth as a basic human being, whereas a truly noble society wouldn't even dream of questioning for a moment someone's worth on that level. And through all this shame-inducing moralism and deeply hurtful accusatory finger-pointing, everyone in our society is an absolute adept at acting as though they're "not a moralist;" no one wants to seems like they're "imposing their viewpoint" on other people. Everyone is a rush to discredit morals; but what's amazing and tragic is that we are probably one of the most imposing and psychologically invasive societies that has ever existed. Sure, we don't execute people in our public squares, a fact we're ever so proud of; we only follow people around harassing their self-image, hounding their own view of their bodies, their minds, and their spirits, until all of us are so tired and so confused and so in pain that we are in all of history the most likely human beings who've ever existed to come to the odd conclusion that ending our lives would be preferable to going on like this.

Pardon me for being so reactionary, but religion itself was never as shaming nor as degrading as this society we've built for ourselves. At least the Christian religion (in its original form) had a mechanism to cope with these pressures; you speak to a priest, you confess your sins, you do penance and are forgiven of those sins so that you may live your life. But nowadays we're not just asked to be our own priests; we're told implicitly by society that if we do anything wrong whatsoever, we'd better damned well keep it a secret, because if the public finds out, we will be forced into a kind of shame and self-loathing that will make life so unbearable that death will seem preferable. And every single person we know, everyone we meet, everyone we see will encourage this perception of ourselves. We tell ourselves that we've freed ourselves from morality and moralism, that we're no longer held hostage by those ideas from the past; what we've really freed ourselves from is mercy, forgiveness, compassion, and love. And disturbs me in a way that I have trouble adequately expressing.
posted by koeselitz at 12:45 PM on July 25, 2010 [241 favorites]


Any (landlord/bank) who would kick you out for not paying the (rent/mortgage) doesn't deserve to have you for a (tenant/house) owner.

What the fuck is the point of this comment?
posted by enn at 12:45 PM on July 25, 2010 [16 favorites]


Christopher "moot" Poole: The case for anonymity online
posted by homunculus at 12:47 PM on July 25, 2010


Although in many ways a retread and not quite a complete success as a novel, Clarke and Baxter's 'Light of Other Days' does at least begin to explore the collision between a generation of people...well, like us, basically...and a generation raised with a new technology that essentially allows anyone to check on what anyone says they said or did at any time; something that completely obliterates privacy and makes it possible for anyone, anywhere to surreptitiously spy on anyone, anywhere, anywhen. Something that allows anyone to see what actually happened at any historical event. How does a culture that is more mired in deceit and hiding and remaking the past than one normally considers, deal with the complete and utter loss of the ability to deceive? I think we are headed down a similar, if less drastic rabbit-hole.
posted by umberto at 12:49 PM on July 25, 2010


  1. As usual, Momus wrote a song about it a while ago. [lyrics]
  2. Unfortunately for all of us who manage to take those five eminently sensible axiomata to heart, ready and willing to live and forgive in the brave new age of information, an intractable problem remains: everyone else who won't.
  3. Everyone else who won't has been a problem for all of us everywhere for far longer now than the ability to post embarrassing videos of drunken shenanigans to MyFaceInATube.
posted by kipmanley at 12:49 PM on July 25, 2010 [6 favorites]


The point is that in these economic times, saying that an employer doesn't "deserve you" based on a blanket CYA HR decision is a statement based on nothing but privilege, overinflated self-worth and a misunderstanding of the future of both the first-world economy and capitalism itself.
posted by griphus at 12:50 PM on July 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


The point is that in these economic times, saying that an employer doesn't "deserve you" based on a blanket CYA HR decision is a statement based on nothing but privilege, overinflated self-worth and a misunderstanding of the future of both the first-world economy and capitalism itself.

Sorry; I guess I misread your analogy completely; I thought you were trying to imply some sort of ethical obligation to one's employer to never become drunk and debauched analagous with a supposed ethical obligation to pay your landlord or bank
posted by enn at 12:55 PM on July 25, 2010


a 25-year-old teacher in training at Conestoga Valley High School in Lancaster, Pa., posted a photo on her MySpace page that showed her at a party wearing a pirate hat and drinking from a plastic cup, with the caption “Drunken Pirate.”
[...]
there was the 16-year-old British girl who was fired from her office job for complaining on Facebook, “I’m so totally bored!!”;


The choice to make that part of their lives public was entirely their own. You want the freedom to climb the highest mountain and proclaim your stupidity for all the world to know? Then you suffer the consequences.

This isn't about some future employer scouring hundreds of websites trying to correlate your anonymous postings with a Real Life persona. This is about people shouting to the entire world as their Real Life persona.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 12:57 PM on July 25, 2010


"Mr. Smith, we thank you for your time today. Unfortunately, we don't have any openings at the moment."

"Didn't you say an hour ago that-"

"Yes. That was before we knew you done goofed."
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 1:01 PM on July 25, 2010 [13 favorites]


The thing is that the whole "can't we just forget about mistakes?" deal is a sublimation of the real problem. We're not pointing the accusation in the right direction. Forgetfulness is not the ideal when it comes to youthful indiscretion, as much as we in our self-loathing and shame may feel it is. The ideal is forgiveness.

You are absolutely correct - the key to growing as a person is to accept past experiences and mistakes, and forgive yourself as needed. But an online permanent record that is easily accessible turns what should be a very personal journey into having to explain yourself over and over again in a public forum. I agree - as as society we should be much more accepting, but that's a tall order. I fear that we will enter a period of complete self policing moral behavior that would make the Victorians look like 60's Hippies.

I just hope the pictures of me making out with my same sex best friend in college don't surface online and hurt my chances on America's Got Talent.
posted by helmutdog at 1:04 PM on July 25, 2010


"The world is passing through troublous times.
The young people of today think of nothing but themselves. They have no reverence for parents or old age. They are impatient of all restraint. They talk as if they knew everything, and what passes for wisdom with us is foolishness with them. As for the girls, they are forward, immodest and unladylike in speech, behavior and dress."

Peter the Hermit, 1274
This seems to be a variation on the same old problem with new added technology making it...the same old problem. At least you aren't stoned or branded or sold off as chattel for your youthful indiscretion anymore (generally), so maybe things aren't so OMG! WE ALL SUXORS! that much, eh?
posted by umberto at 1:09 PM on July 25, 2010 [5 favorites]


Scott McNealy, Sun Microsystems | January 1999: "You have zero privacy anyway. Get over it."
posted by ericb at 1:09 PM on July 25, 2010


This kind of comment always strikes me as reflecting a lot of... something. I don't know. Class privilege, maybe? Or just general obliviousness about the constraints on people's career decisions? Not everyone is in a position to decide her or she doesn't want a job because the bosses or HR are irritating prudes.

I imagine there's a significant overlap between people who've the privilege to choose in their career, and people in careers where their job interview isn't going to involve the insanity of having to show their Facebook profile.

It does feel like a privilege, for me, to be at the fledgling stage in a two-part career, neither half of which gives a shit about my drunken Facebook shame any more than they mind my visible tattoos. But the divide between the pious, impossible expectations of the Real World (not the one where people start getting real) and the naive understanding of internet privacy is really going to be of most consequence to people who are facing it without a choice.
posted by carbide at 1:10 PM on July 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


(Also, thank fuck for coming of age on Usenet - any employer, outside intelligence agencies, who can dig that up probably deserves a prize.)
posted by carbide at 1:11 PM on July 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


Sorry; I guess I misread your analogy completely; I thought you were trying to imply some sort of ethical obligation to one's employer to never become drunk and debauched analagous with a supposed ethical obligation to pay your landlord or bank

Oh god no. And, I have to say, my reply came off as a bit harsh to craichead, who I can only assume was being at least slightly irreverent. For what it's worth, I agree on a personal basis. I sure as hell do not want to work for a company who make it their business to troll Facebook to catch me with my guard down. Then again, I keep that stuff under lock-and-key. But if you're working for Giant Corporation, you have to cover your own ass to make sure their covering their ass doesn't get you kicked off the squad. Considering the times we're in, getting a new job is a job in itself in a way that it hasn't been in decades.
posted by griphus at 1:12 PM on July 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ah memories: Bank Intern Busted by Facebook.
posted by ericb at 1:12 PM on July 25, 2010


I want privacy because I don't want people to know how deeply boring I really am as opposed to what they currently know which is how moderately boring I can be when I am out with them.
posted by srboisvert at 1:14 PM on July 25, 2010 [12 favorites]


...neither half of which gives a shit about my drunken Facebook shame any more than they mind my visible tattoos.

A move in the right direction:
Tattoos no longer workplace taboo.
posted by ericb at 1:14 PM on July 25, 2010


And, I have to say, my reply came off as a bit harsh to craichead, who I can only assume was being at least slightly irreverent.
No, I wasn't being irreverent at all. I work with working-class college students most of whom fund their way through college by, among other things, taking out loans. They need jobs when they graduate. They are, in general, terrified about the bad economy and about not getting jobs and defaulting on their loans. They're terrified that they're going to be burdens on their already-over-burdened parents. They do not have the luxury of only working for employers who "deserve them."
posted by craichead at 1:17 PM on July 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


"...but you fuck ONE goat, and..."
posted by BitterOldPunk at 1:18 PM on July 25, 2010


Shit. I meant knapah, the originator of the "deserve me" comment. CTRL+F fail. You, I completely agree with.
posted by griphus at 1:19 PM on July 25, 2010


"...but you fuck ONE goat, and..."

and then you're on to chickens...
posted by new brand day at 1:26 PM on July 25, 2010


This kind of comment always strikes me as reflecting a lot of... something. I don't know. Class privilege, maybe? Or just general obliviousness about the constraints on people's career decisions? Not everyone is in a position to decide her or she doesn't want a job because the bosses or HR are irritating prudes.

This kind of comment always strikes me as oversensitive and highly indicative of a suppressed sense of humour.

Guess what, I'm unemployed. Doesn't mean I can't crack a joke now and again.
posted by knapah at 1:26 PM on July 25, 2010


Tattoos no longer workplace taboo.

I am so, so glad about this. I work for an ostensibly conservative global non-profit (it started out of a Lutheran church about a century ago) with a very strict dress code and tattoo policy. Except they've really toned down the enforcement to the point where unless you've got obscenities or nudity on you, you're good (although I doubt they'd go for someone with full sleeves.) I just noticed that one of my new coworkers has a big ole scorpion on the top of his palm, and he doesn't even work in the back with the rest of us Morlocks.
posted by griphus at 1:33 PM on July 25, 2010


That would be a funnier joke, knapah, if that weren't the standard, serious response of the "privacy is dead" brigade every time you mention that this could potentially be a problem.

No worries, griphus.
posted by craichead at 1:34 PM on July 25, 2010


When I was an insufferable fifteen-year-old, I got into Internet arguments (talk.origins and e-thepeople) using my real name. Thankfully, bit-rot has taken away nearly all of them, and the rest are pretty much lost in a sea of 5K race results and academic stuff.

“We’re hearing stories of employers increasingly asking candidates to open up Facebook pages in front of them during job interviews,”

what.
posted by haltingproblemsolved at 1:34 PM on July 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


My late friend Mark Coles used to obscurely, but accurately summarize his history of youthful indiscretion by saying "there are things in my past which will keep me from running from public office." The specific details were always unimportant and should always remain so.
posted by three blind mice at 1:38 PM on July 25, 2010


Here's the problem.

People don't give a damn. They don't want to work. They don't like effort. Not just "kids these days," (though they are by far the worst offenders), but people, writ-large. People want to be famous for free, they want to reap all the rewards they see on TV from those "lucky bastards" that were in the right place at the right time.

And now with the advent of the internet they have the ability for public recognition without actually accomplishment. A open-microphone at a rock concert where everyone in the world is attending. You want to go onstage? You think you've got something to say? Go ahead. There's your big chance. Of course, if you make a complete fucking idiot of yourself, well, that's what you fucking get.

Now, you could get this fame and fortune the old fashioned way… you know, making things that help society, or doing things for your fellow man, the kind of slow burn of consistent hard work and effort and trying and giving a damn. This is why famous people have for centuries had a built-in social forgiveness factor for simple humiliations and transgressions of social normalcy: because the things they did to make them famous in the first place give them immunity. My grandmother once saw Albert Einstein leave a hotel wearing nothing but a bath robe. But who gives a fuck? It's Albert fucking Einstein. When you change humanity's fundamental understanding of Newtonian physics, then you can go walking around in bath robes, too. Until then? You're a nobody. There's no social forgiveness because you haven't done anything to deserve it. Same with 99.9999% of Facebook users, Same with 99.9999% of MySpace users. They are nobodies. They haven't accomplished jack shit. Yet they scream to the high heavens about their insipid, worthless lives, thinking the mere fact that they have a bully pulpit means they've done something to deserve it. And then decry when that is used against them in a job interview? Go do something first. Then at least when someone sees your embarrassing picture they can at least say, "Well, that's pretty goddamned stupid, but they did invent the transistor, so I'll give 'em a pass."
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 1:38 PM on July 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


That would be a funnier joke, knapah, if that weren't the standard, serious response of the "privacy is dead" brigade every time you mention that this could potentially be a problem.

It's more of a coping mechanism really.

If someone fired me because of a picture I had put online or, more worryingly, that someone else had put up, I would certainly declare loudly through my sobs that they were just no fun.
posted by knapah at 1:39 PM on July 25, 2010


They do not have the luxury of only working for employers who "deserve them."

i don't think we, as a supposedly free society, have the luxury of having our livelihoods threatened by overbearing pricks who decide who to hire based on personal details irrelevant to one's actual ability and performance

they do not deserve us, our freedom, or a place of power in a free society

that's not an expression of privilege - that's an expression of basic human right
posted by pyramid termite at 1:40 PM on July 25, 2010 [27 favorites]


What a bizarre post, Civil_Disobedient. Facebook doesn't have anything to do with wanting to be famous. Facebook is the equivalent of showing your vacation pictures to your buddies in your bowling league. What's happening here is that people are showing their buddies their vacation pictures, and then they're getting fired because one of their vacation pictures shows them drinking a beer. I'm not sure that I understand what that has to do with the fact that 99% of us are pathetic losers.
posted by craichead at 1:52 PM on July 25, 2010 [13 favorites]


"Also, thank fuck for coming of age on Usenet - any employer, outside intelligence agencies, who can dig that up probably deserves a prize.)"\

For a while after Google acquired deja.com and started google groups my usenet blatherings from years before were coming up as the top results for my real name. You can still find them fairly easily with a little extra criteria. That's why I keep my online persona separate from my name and stay low profile on facebook. Just about anything you can say has the potential to alienate somebody.
posted by Manjusri at 1:53 PM on July 25, 2010


When you change humanity's fundamental understanding of Newtonian physics, then you can go walking around in bath robes, too.

**goes back to school**
posted by new brand day at 1:55 PM on July 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


i don't think we, as a supposedly free society, have the luxury of having our livelihoods threatened by overbearing pricks who decide who to hire based on personal details irrelevant to one's actual ability and performance

Let me give you a for-instance. You're a hiring manager at Giant Company and you need to hire a new salesman. You get a guy's resume and think "I wonder what their Facebook profile looks like" and look it up. Now, you might see nothing because they're using Facebook to keep in touch with their friends and don't care for strangers. On the other hand, you might see that their default picture is them hitting a bong in their underpants, and all their photo albums are unlocked and they're doing a whole bunch of stuff you don't want your company identified with. Are you being an overbearing prick because you cast judgment on their inability to keep their personal life private? Or are you exercising careful hiring practices?
posted by griphus at 1:56 PM on July 25, 2010


There's nothing like sharing your name with a NFL ref and a comic book author for helping keep google trouble off your doorstep. It's still possible to find my own indiscretions with the right added terms but my employer still pees himself, so I've got no worries at the moment.
posted by drezdn at 1:59 PM on July 25, 2010


Are you being an overbearing prick because you cast judgment on their inability to keep their personal life private?

you're being an overbearing prick for looking in the first place - hell, why not just demand to go over to their house RIGHT NOW and inspect it if they want to be hired?
posted by pyramid termite at 2:01 PM on July 25, 2010 [6 favorites]


The reason I hate Facebook is that it wants to collapse all the different aspects of a person's life into a single line, and that's becoming something that people expect, and that's scary as hell because normal people's lives do not work that way. We have always had levels, groups that sometimes have overlapping membership, and often not: Close family, distant family, coworkers, people you went to school with, people you went to grade school with, et cetera. When all those levels are accessible to everyone involved in one or more of them, you have one of two choices: Dispense with the entire idea of privacy, or fucking lie and obscure and obfuscate. I guess I've pretty much gone with the first one, though I'm not the kind of person who would post tons of personal stuff on the internet anyway; I guess I've gone with the second one insofar as I avoid Facebook-type sites like the plagues they are. This whole "transparency" thing is just deeply unhealthy, to my mind; I really do think that good fences make good neighbors. We don't all need to know each other that well, and frankly, if you're someone who has to learn things about me via the internet -- if you're someone I wouldn't just tell these things to in person -- then you really don't need to know.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 2:06 PM on July 25, 2010 [16 favorites]


(Also, thank fuck for coming of age on Usenet - any employer, outside intelligence agencies, who can dig that up probably deserves a prize.)

My first online experiences were in the age of Netscape 1.0, still early enough that a lot of people assumed the internet was only for nerds and creeps. I didn't want to out myself as a nerd, and I didn't want to attract creeps, so I wasn't too forthcoming with personal information, and I'm glad that stuck with me.

I'm also really glad my early childhood was decades before Facebook and Flickr. I got embarrassed enough when my parents got out the photo album. I wonder what it's like for a teenager to find his parents' archived blog discussing the contents of his diaper.
posted by Metroid Baby at 2:10 PM on July 25, 2010


I know a girl who has been a tornado of drama through myriad online communities. She is the subject of an Encyclopedia Dramatica page that documents everything from dumb comments she's made to nude photos and IM (chat) admissions that she has performed sex acts for money. Unless she changes her name, her life now has a ceiling. No matter what career she pursues, there is a level she simply won't be able to rise beyond (and it's not very high), because when you plug her relatively unique name into Google the first hit is this page on Encyclopedia Dramatica. Granted, it's all true and you can say she brought it on herself—but that's a high price to pay.

I'll admit that my friend isn't very smart and probably wasn't going to be a CEO anyway. But still, she is locked out of even entry-level jobs. When she applies for a job, she crosses her fingers and prays that they won't Google her name. And here's the kicker, for purposes of this thread: It's a relatively unique name. In fact, there is one other person who shares it exactly. This woman lives in a different part of the country, but she has the same name and she's about the same age. What is this woman supposed to do, except hope that if an employer does Google her name, he reads carefully enough to notice that the results aren't actually about her?
posted by red clover at 2:13 PM on July 25, 2010 [16 favorites]


coming of age on Usenet

My earliest publicly searchable internet communications are from Usenet from the early 90s. They're pretty stupid--one in particular (basically "here's the WHOIS entry for a white power site! maybe somebody can go and hack them!") makes me cringe whenever I think about it, although I am frequently reminded by threads like this one that it could have been much much worse.

Now I have a different problem: my very uncommon combination of first name and last name is not actually unique in my country, and someone else with the same name has filed a very high-profile lawsuit and one-man advocacy campaign over a particular issue. It's pushed my youthful Usenet silliness completely off the first few Google results pages (which is nice) but may also be leading prospective employers to believe that I am a litigious person with a deeply felt personal agenda (not so nice).
posted by AkzidenzGrotesk at 2:28 PM on July 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Are you being an overbearing prick because you cast judgment on their inability to keep their personal life private?

1. Yes, and

2. Not all examples are so clearcut. What if you had an embarrassing photo on your Facebook page when you were in high school, years ago, and you've long since changed it, but the hiring manage looks on the Internet Archive? What if the picture is posted by someone else? This isn't an artifact of some desire for a Warholian bit of fame at all; it's just a manifestation of the fact that almost all documents are now created and communicated in a format which can be freely copied an unlimited number of times to anyone anywhere on the planet for free. Everyone has an inability to keep their personal life private now; you hope the recipient of your email will not forward it to Gawker, you hope that the private archives of your invite-only forum will not be made public, you hope that people will not take pictures of you at a party and put them online, and you hope that what seems innocuous now will continue to seem so in twenty or thirty or forty years, but you cannot guarantee any of those things no matter how excellent your judgement.
posted by enn at 2:36 PM on July 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


Not everyone is in a position to decide her or she doesn't want a job because the bosses or HR are irritating prudes.

But everyone should be. Seriously. I think people's work lives need to be legally separated from the personal lives. There's no reason that something that doesn't affect your ability to do your job should affect your job status (and that includes your credit rating). There's something really wrong about employers having so much control of our lives outside the workplace and it's starting to bother me more and more. As it turns out Big Brother is not the government but the people we work for.
posted by Jess the Mess at 2:39 PM on July 25, 2010 [15 favorites]


The problem isn't the loss of privacy, per-se. The real issue is that our culture seems to expect anyone who happens to be the current focus of our media attention...from the Presidential candidate, to the rising movie ingenue, to the single mom organizing against school budget cuts...to have impeccable, pure-as-the-driven-snow, life histories. We allow no indiscretions, no matter how small or inconsequential. It's maddeningly illogical.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:43 PM on July 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


But everyone should be.

That's a pretty utopian "should." Where does "work life" end and "personal life" begin in this age of always-on-the-clock, exempt-salary capitalism? I know plenty of people who are on-call 24/7 and don't have an actual clock to clock into. Boss needs them, they show up, rain or shine, weekday or weekend, Christmas or Labor Day.

And where does "not affect your ability" begin or end? If someone posts pictures of themselves smoking meth on Facebook, does that mean I should just assume that's not interacting with their work life? What if it is heavy drinking? If I need someone on call 24/7, the fact that they might be drunk ever is a reason to not keep them on.

Obviously, these are extreme and nearly fascistic situations, but my point stands. "Work life" and "personal life" can't be purely separate in a global economy.
posted by griphus at 2:46 PM on July 25, 2010


I made a pretty conscious decision to use my real name for most things on Internet because it's a part of my public, presentable personhood and anyone who wouldn't hire me cause I wrote about sex or was snarky on a website is not someone I want to work for.

That being said, I got online when I was 12 and obnoxious as fuck and I thank the gods I did so under like 8 pesudonymns.

It also helps that I share a surname with some Known people who come up on a search way before I do and that I did make a conscious choice, knowing that I could be found if anyone really wanted to.

besides, anything really fun you do offline, dig
posted by The Whelk at 2:47 PM on July 25, 2010


At a job interview a couple of the years ago the final question they asked me, to show that they'd been looking me up online and they wanted me to know it, was "So why do you like throttling people so much?" after a website I had which was filled with lots of images from comics of people throttling each other. I improvised some dreadfully poor answer while trying desperately not to make choking gestures with my hands. I did not get the job.
posted by dng at 2:53 PM on July 25, 2010


In journalism it's pretty common to ask around to establish people's reputation before hiring them. You see what friends who have worked with them think of their work, and so on. How this is different from looking at their Facebook profile to see who they know and what they say I'm not clear.

I also think it's dramatically different from demanding entry to their homes. If your Facebook is set such that someone hiring you can see it, then it's public. To say the HR people should ignore it is like some weird "inadmissible as evidence" thing.

Checking up potential hire's online presence is little more than due diligence.
posted by bonaldi at 2:57 PM on July 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Where does "work life" end and "personal life" begin in this age of always-on-the-clock, exempt-salary capitalism? I know plenty of people who are on-call 24/7 and don't have an actual clock to clock into. Boss needs them, they show up, rain or shine, weekday or weekend, Christmas or Labor Day.

...

"Work life" and "personal life" can't be purely separate in a global economy.


I couldn't possibly disagree more strongly with this. The "global economy" is not a get-out-of-jail-free card for any and all abuses of the workforce. That your friends have lousy working conditions is indicative only of the fact that we are currently — especially in the US — at one of the lower historical ebbs where workers' rights are concerned. This is a political reality which is not an inevitable consequence of a global economy; such circumstances have come and gone before. If we are fortunate, the sort of employer overreach under discussion might spur us as a society to once again draw some of the boundaries which your friends' employers are only too happy to blur.
posted by enn at 2:57 PM on July 25, 2010 [16 favorites]


Workers at many factories in the early 20th century had to take part in morality and hygiene checks of their own homes or in cases of factory towns like Saltaire, forced to be abstaining and church-going in order to stay employed. Bosses have always wanted to own their employees, and this proves two truths:

It has always sucked to be poor.

Business will stop at nothing to return to Robberbaron days and now they're extending it into the white collar world as much as humanly possible.
posted by The Whelk at 3:03 PM on July 25, 2010 [15 favorites]


I'm not going to disagree that we have a problem -- the "exempt" that salary workers are means "exempt" from fair labor laws, and that's a fucking travesty. However, we have to think pragmatically about this as well. You don't dismantle the problem from the outside. The example bonaldi gives is perfect. What is the qualitative difference between doing some investigation into a potential employee's real-world presence and doing so online? What is the difference between posting a bunch of pictures of myself doing something Bad on lamp-posts, and setting it as my publicly-viewable profile image?

Yes, things are bad. But we're past the age of protest and revolution. Things don't work that way anymore, if they ever had. You want to change HR policy? You need to get into HR, not disqualify yourself from ever working in the company by way of a protest. If you're like the Whelk and have a dead-set philosophy toward this, that's one thing. If you're ignorantly plodding through and destroying your internet presence, that's another.
posted by griphus at 3:03 PM on July 25, 2010


Taking over HR departments sounds like the worst revolution yet.
posted by dng at 3:06 PM on July 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


Where does "work life" end and "personal life" begin in this age of always-on-the-clock, exempt-salary capitalism?

That's kind of what I mean...I think "always-on-the-clock, exempt-salary captalism" is wrong and I don't think it's exceedingly utopian thinking to think so. There are very few jobs that legitimately have a need for a single person to always be on the clock and representing their workplace or whatever. Even a person who works on an on-call basis should only be judged by their employer for the hours they actually were working. Now, of course there are some gray areas. I used to be a flight attendant and we weren't supposed to drink when we were on call. I think that's reasonable because if I got totally sauced and had a flight an hour later and accidentally popped an exit door because I was drunk that would definitely affect my job performance. However, I was only on call for a reasonable period of time and was compensated for it.

If someone is a meth-head but it doesn't affect their work performanance, hey, it doesn't affect their work performance. But if their lab blows up and they go to jail for ten days, well, then it's okay to fire them because it is affecting their performance.

"Work life" and "personal life" can't be purely separate in a global economy. Maybe if you're a international spy or something but for everyone else it seems quite easy.
posted by Jess the Mess at 3:12 PM on July 25, 2010


What is the difference between posting a bunch of pictures of myself doing something Bad on lamp-posts, and setting it as my publicly-viewable profile image?

The difference is time and audience, as suggested by the title of the Times piece; on the internet it will last forever and it will be available for zero marginal cost and near-zero marginal effort to, literally, every single person in the first world. When quantitative differences because as vast as this they become qualitative differences.

Yes, things are bad. But we're past the age of protest and revolution.

Nah, that's just the party line. Inevitability has always been the way the loss of rights for workers has been sold, but there is no innate teleology to these things, only our collective choices as to how to run our society.
posted by enn at 3:16 PM on July 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


...only our collective choices as to how to run our society.

By excluding yourself from the system you're not happy with, you're excluding yourself from the "our." Unless you think there's going to be a coup or an armed worker's revolt on the lobbies, change is going to be emergent, not imposed. To exclude yourself from the system is to quell your own ability to change it. The party line is "don't rock the boat," and that's what needs to be done. But if you've got to be in the boat to rock it.
posted by griphus at 3:22 PM on July 25, 2010


Who's excluding themselves from anything? Surely you're not arguing that only HR personnel can have opinions on societal hiring norms.
posted by enn at 3:24 PM on July 25, 2010


Of course not. But you if you're going to change the culture of the corporation who does Facebook-based morality checks on potential employees, you're not going to get anywhere by saying "my personal life is my personal life so THERE," continuing to create an continuing to create an online persona that makes you unhireable. There is a certain amount of inevitability: the current forms of capitalism and democracy are here to stay until they're changed. But, again, change in this day and age will be emergent from the culture of the corporation itself.
posted by griphus at 3:27 PM on July 25, 2010


Yeah, the "global economy" thing is just a red herring. It's been a global economy for much longer than there's been a widely-used internet, and I'd say we did a pretty fucking good job of keeping people's personal and work lives separate as recently as ten years ago. What's different is that even if your employer wanted to know all about your away-from-work life, they were hampered by (a) laziness, (b) the cost of hiring a private investigator, (c) laziness, (d) a cost-benefit analysis that showed hiring a PI to check out a potential BK manager was complete insanity, and (e) laziness. It's just a lot of work to dig up shit on people -- or it used to be. Now it requires no effort and costs nothing, so of course they're gonna do it. Nothing has changed except that once was hard and prohibitively expensive is now easy and cheap.

For me, I don't have anything to hide from an employer. I would, however, like to avoid unpleasant political/religious conversations with friends and family, not have to justify why I'm talking to someone everyone who knew them ten years ago thinks is an asshole, not have to worry that if in a moment of total exasperation I vent about an unnamed someone that within seconds a mutual friend will be asking them what the big deal is and put it on front street, not have to explain why I turned down an invite from your Kevin Smith Fan Page when we both know Clerks was hella awesome. Hence, no Facebook for me. Solves a lot of problems. And I think that if more people kicked its ass to the virtual curb, most of the internet problems they have would go away quickly.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 3:30 PM on July 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Bonaldi: In journalism it's pretty common to ask around to establish people's reputation before hiring them. You see what friends who have worked with them think of their work, and so on. How this is different from looking at their Facebook profile to see who they know and what they say I'm not clear.

Let me try to clarify. Let's say you call around to some mutual acquaintances of yourself and the prospective hire. One guys says "great writer, sometimes has trouble with deadlines." Another guys says "really encyclopedic knowledge of local politics, but not so great on national." This is useful information directly relevant to his job. If one of those guys said "He was once at a party wearing a pirate's hat and a drinking a beer. I joked that he was a drunken sailor." it wouldn't be useful, and more to the point, it wouldn't be offered. Maybe one of the people you call has a grudge against him and bad-mouths him. Maybe that'll trump everything else you hear. Probably you'll weigh it against what else you've heard, or perhaps ignore it figuring "that guy's a crank."

If you look up someone's facebook page, or blog, or whatever, you're not trying to find out jack about that person as a worker. You're on a fishing expedition for something—anything—to disqualify him. The idea that our lives outside work somehow has bearing on the work that we do is completely abhorrent. If I ever found myself in a job interview where someones asked to see my Facebook page, I'd stand up, tell him to fuck himself, and walk out. I've lost work over stuff people found I had written online, and may again. I have refused drug tests even though I don't use drugs. I can live with it.

Also, back to the original article: the author, Jeffrey Rosen, has been writing about this stuff for a long time. His book The Unwanted Gaze is a great read.
posted by adamrice at 3:34 PM on July 25, 2010 [12 favorites]


This isn't really about indiscretion. It's about conformity. It's about sifting out people who might stand out too much. Whether you're drunk and dressed as a pirate at a party after-hours might have no bearing on your job, but you're expected to know how such public photos will be (arbitrarily) interpreted. Most of these things are only "mistakes" of nonconformity, or of conforming to one's youthful peers instead of older employers. Somewhere between high school and striking the career ceiling the social markers change completely--in high school the cool kids flaunt (like a peacock's tail) their indifference to the adult norms.

If we really were concerned about performance-relevant internet leaks, we'd be cringing that an employer would find our passionate defense of the wrong answer to the Monte Hall problem. Instead now I'm wondering if I got the interview but not the job recently because of the Halloween photo I had up on my blog...

Yes, there are financial imperatives to confirm, and it probably is a class issue who thinks they are most able to resist those imperatives. But I don't think it is a good thing, and those who equate capitalism with freedom in all cases should answer for its imposition of conformity. (Which after all, is one of the driving forces behind "bubbles" of all kinds.) And we seem to have a crisis of creativity on our hands.

By and large those who left trails of wildness in the '60s were able to move on (Jerry Rubin for example). Demographically, the country had been young together. Now I think older generations think that as they grew up, history did too, and that nobody after them can be young any more.
posted by Schmucko at 3:34 PM on July 25, 2010 [8 favorites]


Also, thank fuck for coming of age on Usenet - any employer, outside intelligence agencies, who can dig that up probably deserves a prize.

This is possibly the saddest commentary on Google's acquisition of DejaNews ever.
posted by asterix at 3:40 PM on July 25, 2010 [5 favorites]


Unless you think there's going to be a coup or an armed worker's revolt on the lobbies, change is going to be emergent, not imposed.

laws can be passed by representatives or even by referendum prohibiting companies from making hiring or firing decisions based on legal activities people do on their spare time

which is part of the system
posted by pyramid termite at 3:43 PM on July 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


wait wait wait, I'm confused. Someone please help me understand this.

Do the living conditions of people in the past invalidate my beliefs, or do my beliefs invalidate the experiences of people from the past?

inquiring minds, etc...
posted by shmegegge at 3:45 PM on July 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


You're on a fishing expedition for something—anything—to disqualify him.
Isn't there some old trope about not ascribing motives when you can't possibly know what they are?

Checking someone's online presence is nothing more than trying to get a fuller picture of who they are than is possible in the contrived interview setting. The results can be both positive and negative.

The idea that our lives outside work somehow has bearing on the work that we do is completely abhorrent.
The idea that the person we are somehow has no reflection on how we perform in our careers is completely ludicrous. (Bear in mind, too, that I was talking about journalism, where drinking oneself to death is rarely a bar to advancement).

If I ever found myself in a job interview where someones asked to see my Facebook page, I'd stand up, tell him to fuck himself, and walk out
Again, there's a massive difference between having a Facebook page set so open that a googling HR person can find it, and that same person asking to see it. One is diligence, the other invasion of privacy.
posted by bonaldi at 3:54 PM on July 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Again, there's a massive difference between having a Facebook page set so open that a googling HR person can find it, and that same person asking to see it. One is diligence, the other invasion of privacy.

You've lost me entirely there. "So, hey, I noticed your front door was open, so I walked in a took a poke around" is diligence, but "do you mind if I come in to your house and take a poke around" is an invasion of privacy?

Maybe there's a new norm being established, where what we put on the internet is assumed to be default public and people put a lot less shit on the internet. But as things are now, I'd say a vast majority of the people using facebook don't have a real clear idea of exactly how searchable they are, and if they don't they're likely treating it as a semi-private space. To say, "well, technically speaking it's a fully public space and therefore I'm going to treat everything you do there as fair game," steps well beyond the bounds of diligence, to my mind.

Maybe once people fully grok the "cans" with this stuff we'll create a new set of "ought nots" and that's just something that will take some time to work through, but I don't think there's ever been a technology where the cans rightfully obliterated the ought nots, and that seems to be a bit what you're suggesting --- that what the technology makes possible should be accepted by the users as what is morally correct.
posted by Diablevert at 4:19 PM on July 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


My next company is going to screen out any person who doesn't have at least one drunken picture online and some slightly crazy stuff in their facebook / myspace history. I want to make interesting things, with creative people who have lots of energy. I think this hiring rule should also apply to school teachers in that I want my children to be creative, interesting, energetic and a bit dangerous.
posted by humanfont at 4:21 PM on July 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


You've lost me entirely there. "So, hey, I noticed your front door was open, so I walked in a took a poke around" is diligence, but "do you mind if I come in to your house and take a poke around" is an invasion of privacy?

Facebook allows you to do two kinds of things: be very private, or be very public. So does Twitter: you can have a public tweetstream, or a private one. So does Flickr: photos can be public or private.

In each case it's the same: looking at the stuff that's been made public? Fair game. Demanding access to the private stuff? Not on.

Perhaps with Facebook it's slightly different because they've changed the privacy rules so often, but I don't think it's massively so.

It's not like this is discrimination. It's not looking at your facebook to find out if you're pregnant or other illegal things we're talking about; it's trying to find out what kind of person you are. If in the course of that someone discovers something that would get you fired if you did it while in their employ and they decide not to employ you on the basis of it, I'm not sure there's a huge ethical problem there.
posted by bonaldi at 4:43 PM on July 25, 2010


In each case it's the same: looking at the stuff that's been made public? Fair game. Demanding access to the private stuff? Not on.

Exactly. The current iteration of Facebook isn't using the old metaphor that every profile is a little house that you visit. Instead, the profile is your persona on a big street. You can walk down it screaming about your latest party antics or wear a trenchcoat and a big hat and sunglasses. By default, it's easier to do the former than the latter, especially if you're not a person who understands the conflation between Internet personas and IRL personas, and is does not exercise due discretion. It's the nature of the beast to let you expose yourself too much. Facebook is not a good-natured charity who want you to be connected. Facebook is a company who want to know what you know, think, do, and like and sell that information. So if an employer sees you walking down the street hollering about how much pot you smoke to everyone on the street, it's their right to say "you are not a person I want to employ." On the other hand, they have no right to ask you to take off the trenchcoat, the sunglasses and the hat.
posted by griphus at 4:49 PM on July 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Civil_Disobedient: "Yet they scream to the high heavens about their insipid, worthless lives, thinking the mere fact that they have a bully pulpit means they've done something to deserve it. And then decry when that is used against them in a job interview? Go do something first. Then at least when someone sees your embarrassing picture they can at least say, 'Well, that's pretty goddamned stupid, but they did invent the transistor, so I'll give 'em a pass.'?"

There's a FPP around here somewhere that shows the world doesn't work like that. Haters gotta hate, to steal a phrase from elsewhere.

Ah, here it is.
posted by Pinback at 5:25 PM on July 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's more than 15 years since I decided to keep a wall between my online self and my offline self. I still think it was a good decision, even though I have to tell my offline friends that I won't be friending them on Facebook.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 6:54 PM on July 25, 2010


This kind of comment always strikes me as reflecting a lot of... something. I don't know. Class privilege, maybe? Or just general obliviousness about the constraints on people's career decisions? Not everyone is in a position to decide her or she doesn't want a job because the bosses or HR are irritating prudes.

Thank you, craichead, for helping me to understand what has bothered me so much about people saying "Why didn't someone just take precautions to disguise their identity adequately/be aware of their privacy settings/have the computer knowledge to hide past indiscretions?"

Although I don't have anything to hide, having thankfully gained adulthood and judgement before the ubiquity of net opportunities to mess up and having some small sophistication regarding the lack of privacy, I imagine that many people have life experiences and talents that lie elsewhere but who have a huge amount to contribute despite any teenage indiscretions combined with ignorance of the non-anonymity of any internet interaction.

Computer science education and knowledge is a privileged state and we take it for granted at our moral peril.
posted by Morrigan at 8:10 PM on July 25, 2010


Streets and parks and cafés and other civic spaces permit meaningful distinctions between in public and for the public. New expressive capabilities don't subtract from that nuance, they add to it. The majority of social media users aren't looking for a new way to shout from the rooftops. They're talking to their friends. Here's an analogy that more closely accords to going out of your way to look for a stranger's personal correspondence across a public medium: eavesdropping.

See Diablevert upthread re: can vs. ought.
posted by Municipal Hare at 9:51 PM on July 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


The thing is if I ran down the street shouting stupid things, people would probably forget about it after giving me a funny look or having a laugh about it with my friends unless I made a real ass of myself. Heck, even a potential employer might not even notice that it was the same person, especially if I was trying to get into a line of work where anyone cared if you looked like a dirty hippie. However anything I say public online is likely to be archived for a long long time, is searchable, and is connected to one specific persona.
posted by Zalzidrax at 10:32 PM on July 25, 2010


Then at least when someone sees your embarrassing picture they can at least say, "Well, that's pretty goddamned stupid, but they did invent the transistor, so I'll give 'em a pass."

That worked out pretty well for Alan Turing.
posted by straight at 10:44 PM on July 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


straight That worked out pretty well for Alan Turing.

Nowadays in the UK being a gay academic is much, much less of a big deal, to the point where there are actual legal consequences to employers for making it a big deal. Among other reasons, that's because Alan Turing suffered terrible discrimination for no reason other than his sexuality, and his suffering struck fair-minded people as unfair and unreasonable. Of course these changes are not due to Turing alone, it's also because many, many other people also suffered discrimination, and didn't stand for it, and took the risk of admitting to being gay and/or the risk of admitting to believing discrimination on the basis of sexuality to be unfair, and fought against it, and sued and lobbied to get the civil rights that gay people have today.

But the journey isn't over. What happened to Stacy Snyder, while not in principle as bad as what happened to Alan Turing (although it's not at all unlikely that being put through the nasty-minded bullshit she was put through could have driven someone to suicide) strikes almost all internet-aware people, certainly all of the fair-minded people and a lot of the "that could be me" people, as extremely unfair. Even those who justify her maltreatment do so as a "regrettable reality" rather than as something desirable. We do not live at the end of the need for civil rights advancement. There is more that must be done.

Life worked out pretty badly for Alan Turing, but for Andy Medhurst (whom I know nothing about beyond the fact that he is an apparently successful gay British academic), it seems to be working out fine. Hopefully in the future, it'll work out fine for some other undergraduate education student who is photographed having a beer at a pirate-themed party.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 11:36 PM on July 25, 2010


I'm annoyed that my boss *isn't* on Facebook. Mocking him in my status updates is less fun 'cuz I can't tag him. :(
posted by Jacqueline at 12:31 AM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Fortunately(?), his wife is on Facebook so I still get to see all the goofy pictures of him, including the one of the inappropriate Halloween costume with the noticeable bulge. THAT WHICH HAS BEEN SEEN CANNOT BE UNSEEN.
posted by Jacqueline at 12:34 AM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure I agree completely koeselitz. Compared with the stifling conformity of say, the '50s or the willingness of past historical regiemes to burn me alive for thought crimes or magic, the consequences for non-conformity are considerably less. For example some of the artwork and writing I did may come back to haunt my career, and people will happily make comments about my worth as a human being based on my apparent BMI, but expressing that I'm a sexual being has not doomed me to a lifetime of poverty and starvation on the fringes of society.

It's true that it's a lot harder for me to uproot to an entirely new social circle without taking my baggage with me, but it's also a lot easier to uproot from my 'village'. People are still going to talk, but the emphasis people put on preserving my good name is nothing as high as it's been.

Being fired from one job =/= never holding a job again, being forced into marriage, etc...
posted by Phalene at 7:06 AM on July 26, 2010


The unfortunate, disturbing, and in fact frightening fact that this article is glossing over is this: we live in the most shaming, guilt-tripping, hurtful, intentionally damaging society that has ever existed.

I disagree. I am so glad I don't live in a small village where you have no mobility and everyone knows your business and doing something like dating the wrong person would get the whole town gossiping behind your back.
posted by smackfu at 7:11 AM on July 26, 2010


I think employers need to lighten up and find something better to do.

Although it did earn Dooce a sweet gig and house.
posted by stormpooper at 7:12 AM on July 26, 2010


Now I think older generations think that as they grew up, history did too, and that nobody after them can be young any more.

That would be every single generation since the beginning of self-awareness. When you get to be old, you will harumph at the stupid, unimportant, self-serving antics of the young, too, while you wish you were them and think history is ending. It's not history. It's just you.

And speaking of which, at the risk of revealing deep geezerhood and anti-social tendencies, I have never done social networking sites. I am sort of more interested in the moments that stand out in people's lives and how they feel about them, rather than wallow in the mundane, day-to-day, common-to-us-all intricacies that people seem so eager to display in full exhibitionistic (?) display. Hell, when I want to see what strangers think about shit I don't care about, I come to Metafilter. Plus, the experiences other people have had being found by people they don't want to be found by have made me feel great about that decision. This thread makes me feel even greater about it.
posted by umberto at 7:45 AM on July 26, 2010


aeschenkarnos, that's a great perspective on how far we've come since Turing.

My only point was to refute Civil_Disobedient's idea that society automatically gives you a pass on deviant behavior if you just make a useful contribution.

Although even if it were true, the whole You-Must-Contribute-THIS-Much-To-Society-to-Be-Tolerated idea is pretty abhorrent.
posted by straight at 8:52 AM on July 26, 2010


I can't think of a better way for a prospective employer to guarantee an adversarial relationship with their employees and to ensure their workforce will lie to them at every opportunity. If people are seriously getting fired over pictures on Facebook (that aren't pics of you partying when you phoned in sick or slagging your boss), of activities pretty much EVERYONE does at some point, then HR has unrealistic expectations and will have the choice between liars and nothing. I'm probably wrong, but this doesn't seem like a sustainable approach to hiring and HR management to me.
posted by Kirk Grim at 9:36 AM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Fired Over Facebook: 13 Posts That Got People Canned.
posted by ericb at 9:51 AM on July 26, 2010


I went ahead and googled my (now-)boss before my interview.

Also, [comment redacted]
posted by Eideteker at 12:43 PM on July 26, 2010


Is this something I'd have to have a personal life to understand?
posted by The Lurkers Support Me in Email at 2:12 PM on July 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


The fact is that, as Faulkner would put it, by nature there is no "was," and this forgetting about the past, this forgetting of "youthful indiscretions," is not a natural human thing.

I agree with all your points in spirit, but forgetting things is absolutely natural.

I suppose I can allow that it has become natural, and I think if it's due to anything it's because in these days were are expected to process and remember so many things that we just don't hold onto them as strongly.

And actually I'm not 100% sure that forgiveness was that common of a practice in the past, either. I mean, the concept of a woman's honor/reputation meant a great deal more in the past than it does now, and every so often a single action could taint you in the eyes of your entire village/town. In some ways, the Internet has turned things full circle: in the past, villages knew everything about their members. Now, with increased privacy and larger populations, it's not uncommon to know little or nothing about your next-door neighbor. The Internet has made it easier to store this historical knowledge that before was stored only in the minds of a small gathering of people.
posted by Deathalicious at 2:17 PM on July 26, 2010


Deathalicious, forgiveness may have been uncommon in the past, but maybe the ideal was better understood. You, for instance, seem to be confusing forgiveness and forgetfulness (or unawareness) in your comment.
posted by straight at 3:04 PM on July 26, 2010


I think patting our era on the back for not being conformist reveals a blind spot (sorry for the inconsistent imagery). The view we have of most people is shaped by what they express, which is limited by what society tolerates, its particular moral panics of the moment, etc.

Sure, we can be smug that Alan Turing in 2010 wouldn't have been treated as he was in the 50s. But that got me thinking about all the English eccentrics, and I immediately thought of Lewis Carroll--can you imagine him as a mathematics professor with Victorian equivalent of a Facebook profile listing his hobby as photographing young girls naked?
posted by Schmucko at 5:42 PM on July 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Worthy topic, thanks for the post helmutdog. Thanks for the thoughtful and stimulating comment koeselitz, I've been thinking about what you wrote all day.

Granny said, "Never put in writing anything you wouldn't be comfortable reading in the newspaper."

I have mixed feelings and thoughts about this lack of privacy on the web. Yes, I cringe at the kids who do things online I think will likely "ruin their reputations" with potential future bosses, spouses, friends. I was furious at the journalist who outed my anonymous online name, used in posting years of therapy in online groups and relieved I was meticulous in telling the truth in case anything I said was ever part of a legal action, which it was.

And then, on the other hand, I'm profoundly grateful that the misdeeds of politicians, CEOS, con artists, bully cops too quick on the taser, bullies in general, malicious characters of all kinds are being outed publicly online. Publicly dangerous creeps, who would otherwise have hidden behind crafty masks are stripped of their disguises, their frauds and crimes exposed on the web. I'm grateful for the greater transparency created by the lack of secrecy about politics around the planet.

Then there is the schadenfreude factor. There are images or videos that are guilty pleasures and those that seem like they are doomed to cause long lasting scars. The images or YouTube videos that would once have caused a person deep shame are so common now I think there is less shame about commonplace mistakes, pranks and petty stuff than there used to be.

One of the many reasons I love NYC is that I have never experienced the control, fear and manipulation here that gossip can create in a smaller community, where appearances play a more important role. There is just such a massive amount of embarrassing stuff going on in NYC that nobody pays it much attention. I think the web, crammed as it is with lots of silly stuff, is developing that cyber urbanity.

The problem is that an oops of any kind or caliber may be recorded online, a person can be branded, for years and years. Just as one learned social essentials as a young child, like not to pick one's nose, burp or fart in public, learning netiquette in kindergarten will likely become a significantly important, formal part of learning cyber social communication.
posted by nickyskye at 8:01 PM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


All my stupidest shit is on CompuServe.
posted by Artw at 11:22 AM on July 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


...though if you can figure out my l33t wareZ d00d name and dig up some early 90s disk mags you might find some spectacular awfulness.
posted by Artw at 11:23 AM on July 27, 2010


@r!W?
posted by The Whelk at 1:11 PM on July 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Schmucko Sure, we can be smug that Alan Turing in 2010 wouldn't have been treated as he was in the 50s.

Smugness isn't the first emotion that brings to mind. No-one should be treated like that.

But that got me thinking about all the English eccentrics, and I immediately thought of Lewis Carroll--can you imagine him as a mathematics professor with Victorian equivalent of a Facebook profile listing his hobby as photographing young girls naked?

I can, and I can imagine people a century later exclaiming with scandalized disgust over things we take completely for granted and blandly post on our profiles today. Tim Krieder: "Grandpa, you were never one of those people who kept animal slaves, were you?"
posted by aeschenkarnos at 10:29 PM on July 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Google CEO Suggests You Change Your Name to Escape His Permanent Record
posted by homunculus at 7:30 PM on August 16, 2010


learning netiquette in kindergarten will likely become a significantly important, formal part of learning cyber social communication.

My 18-year-old nephew has abandoned Facebook and other social media sites because, he says (with a cynical grimace), "everyone's beautiful" there .
posted by Jimmy Havok at 8:55 PM on August 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


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