Actor Christian Bale’s highly publicised, foul-mouthed rant on a movie set, Michael Richards racist rant at a heckler, Michael Phelps captured by a digial camera smoking marijuana, politicians who take one stance one year and reverse it 6 months or a year or two on without explanation (thinking that what, all video evidence was erased?).
We marvel that these famous people would be so careless. The eyes of the world are on them, right?
How about THESE people:
- Teachers disciplined for inappropriate photos on Facebook and MySpace
- Workers calling in sick on Fridays and then fired when the party photos appear on Mondays.
- Mean-spirited email exchanges via corporate accounts published to the world.
- Tipsy or emotionally charged or just plain bored people having a rant about bosses, co-workers or less than tasteful extracurricular activities in public chat rooms.
You don’t need a blog, or a Facebook or MySpace account or a photo-sharing or video sharing site account to get in the spotlight on the internet — although any one of these certainly helps.
Publishing is now instant and 24/7. The ability to communicate instantly and share instantly means that everyday people are now just as at risk for having their reputations damaged, careers hurt and relationships destroyed as the famous. Educators, do a search on “teacher yelling” or “my crazy teacher” in Google or YouTube and see what comes back.
For those of us basking in our obscurity, keep in mind that we don’t need our faux pas distributed to millions of people for our lives to be impacted. Thanks to search technologies, a thoughtless tirade could end up end up on the monitors of potential employers, peer review bodies, friends and family — or even being the next internet sensation.
What’s the answer? As the famous do, own and control your identity and yourself online and offline:
- If you wouldn’t want to see it as the latest headline (or have it read by your boss, parents, children, friends and/or spouse), don’t write it or say it or pose for it or publish it. Just because it’s been published in a pass-word protected area doesn’t mean someone can’t use PrintScreen to create an image of it.
- After hours, don’t be afraid to tell snap-happy friends that you don’t want your photo taken. Especially the ones who are online publishers.
- Set workplace guidelines regarding privacy and what is considered appropriate to share publicly.
- If you’re feeling emotionally charged and cannot argue with or correct someone without backing the emotion out of it, walk away or save the email as a draft. If it happens a lot, switch to decaf.
- Remember you don’t own your work email. Your organisation does.
- If you do live some of your life online, use an online service that will stitch together those online identities you wish to claim.