Sep 012010

Have you seen the stories on the news about people who have lost their jobs because of something that they shared on the web? One recent example is this story about a high school teacher in Cohasset, Massachusetts who was forced to resign over comments she allegedly made on Facebook.  I feel bad for people like Dr Siple.  I feel bad first and foremost because we all make mistakes.  I also feel bad because, especially when it comes to Facebook, it is not easy to understand your privacy settings.

The truth is that there are countless teachers out there who are headed back to school and “not looking forward to it”.  There are probably teachers in that very same school who think some of the residents of Cohasset are “snobby and arrogant”.  The reason they haven’t been fired is because they didn’t make a public mistake.  So what are we really judging?  The publicity of the error, or the perceived error itself (our judgement of the comments)?

Apparently there’s an entire industry of people that will clean up your “mistakes” on the web.  This makes sense to me for serious things like libel and slander.  But where does it end? How much of our true selves can we be on the web?  Who gets to define what is acceptable to share?  Are certain things only acceptable to share as long as they don’t offend the wrong people?

In the analog world, the world outside of social media, if you were my colleague or peer I might not know that you loved ABBA, or that you liked to hunt elk, or that Lisa Simpson is your hero.  If I know these things because of Twitter, Tumbler, Facebook, or Foursquare it makes no difference to me.  I live in 2010 and I am not going to be judgmental about things that I only know because of some new communication medium.  Our likes and interests, our politics and religion, our opinions and beliefs, and every other piece of minutiae that combines to makes us each unique individuals existed long before our ability to broadcast them to a worldwide audience in real time.

If it didn’t matter when I didn’t know it, then it shouldn’t matter now.

I’m enjoying learning new insights into the friends, family members, colleagues, clients, and other assorted and sundry folks I interact with online.  This is true even if I sometimes disagree with them, even if I wouldn’t do that, or tell everyone that, or play that game, or think that, or “go there”.  I’m not advocating that we all sit in a circle and hold hands and sing Kumbaya.  Nor have I changed my belief that there is no privacy on the web.  It would just be nice if from time to time we could pause long enough to remind ourselves that there are many steps on the path between information and wisdom.


I wrote this post yesterday afternoon.  Last night I saw this clip on a rerun of The Colbert Report.  It’s a far more witty and hilarious take on my aforementioned thoughts on privacy and social media.  Enjoy!

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
The Word – Control-Self-Delete
Colbert Report Full Episodes 2010 Election Fox News

What are your views on privacy and social media? Share your experiences, questions, and thoughts with us!