Somedays the world just keeps piling it on. Your boss yells at you, your significant other picked a fight, or maybe a prominent politician said something unfavorable.
In the pre-Internet days, these complaints were saved for conversations over the bar, or the dinner table. Face to face with other humans.
In modern times, though, we often take these frustrations to the web, primarily to social networks such as Facebook or Twitter. We rant and air our grievances on a network which to us appears to only be of close knit friends. Some of them will ‘like’ the post, maybe even comment agreeing or disagreeing with you.
What many people today don’t seem to realize is just how public your social media profiles really are. The internet can be accessed by anyone, in just about any country. Go ahead, logout of your Facebook and Google yourself. Click the link to your Facebook, is everything there something you’d want your grandmother to see? Or how about a prospective employer? A grad school admissions officer? It’s likely that your profile will at some point be viewed by a person of this nature.
According to an article published in The New York Times in July 2011, 75% of American companies require their recruiters to do internet background checks. Of those, 70% say they have rejected prospective employees based on what their Internet search returned.
The fact of the matter is as social media becomes more and more ingrained in our everyday lives, more and more people seem to post before they think online. Take a look at the slew of racist tweets and Facebook posts following the crowning of Miss America last week. Obama and the N-Word are used far too often together on Twitter. Most of these posts may not have been conscious decisions, they may have been posted in the heat of the moment, a time when the writer had a very brief, yet strong opinion. But what’s posted on the Internet doesn’t go away, and is likely to label you by what you post.
It doesn’t matter how important you are. There’s the classic example of Anthony Weiner posting revealing selfies of himself to Twitter on several occasions. A few weeks ago, Pax Dickinson, the CTO of Business Insider, was fired after posting numerous leud tweets.
A common solution to posting something obscene online often is to simply delete it. It’s gone forever, no one can see it, right? Wrong. Just because you delete it doesn’t mean someone didn’t take a screenshot of it (it happens more than you’d think), or that it wasn’t cached on a site like The Way Back Machine. Google also indexes cached versions of websites for a certain amount of time, so even though you may think that post is gone and wiped from your internet record, it’s likely it’s not.
This isn’t to say that it’s bad to have opinions and post about them on the Internet. Some very constructive and interesting conversations begin from users posting an interesting opinion or viewpoint to the web. What is important is to make sure that whatever is being posted is something you really mean, and that you don’t have a problem sharing with the rest of the world. If you want to be labeled a racist, then go ahead and make racist tweets. If you tweet racist things, people will–probably correctly–label you a racist.
It’s important that we remember that the Internet is a very powerful tool. It can be used to share photos, topple dictators, and even in some cases ruin lives. Just make sure that the person you are online is someone you really want to be.


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