I guess people are just really stupid. Time for people to wise up about the web. It’s dead easy. If you post something on the internet, people can see it. That means: authority figures, parents, current employers, potential future employers, everybody.
Top Law Student (down at the moment; mirror here) has a post reminding you that your MySpace page is available to anyone. (I guess even if you set your MySpace to ‘private’ it won’t really work because MySpace is crumbly and insecure.) There is also the discussion on Digg.
I had assumed that most people are aware of this. Employers do look up job applicants on Google. It’s a basic security check; common sense if you’re an employer. And when they search for you, they see all the shit you put on the web under your name. That includes all of the ridiculous embarrassing stuff you put on MySpace, Facebook, Bebo, everything.
If this scares you, then follow the advice on Top Law Student. Delete your MySpace page, or change it all so that you’re anonymous. Me? I will just be sensible about what I put on MySpace, this blog, and anywhere else on the internet. Obviously that limits what I can write about. But life isn’t perfect. If you wouldn’t put it on a billboard on the street, don’t put it on the internet. Simple as that.
It is an interesting issue though. I reckon the number of young people who have some kind of web presence — be it a blog like mine or a MySpace or a Bebo or whatever — is probably approaching something like 90–100%. The vast majority of them are written as though only friends can read them.
I guess employers would have to be really naive to expect all of their employees to be squeaky-clean. But it is obviously rather better for them not to be 100% aware of your debaucheries. But if everybody puts embarassing shit on their MySpace that could put potential employers off, employers will probably find themselves fast running out of good candidates. They will probably have to start choosing the least-worst person for the job instead of (in their eyes) a really good person.
Of course, now that I’ve given a big lecture on it, I will probably find myself being pwned by a potential employer for something I’ve written on my blog at some point. I’m half expecting one day to wake up and find an angry crowd of lone protesters, each one angry about something different I wrote in the dim and distant past. One despises me for recommending an Autechre album. Another thinks I’m an idiot for siding with Michelin in the US Grand Prix fiasco. A small cluster wants to burn me at the stake because I think the text function on my iRiver is useless.
But I’m willing to take responsibility for what I’ve written. I hope, when I am ready to enter the Big Bad World, I will be able to work in an environment where my blog won’t be an issue. Maybe that’s wishful thinking, but hey, I’m a blogger. That’s just who I am. I don’t see this as a reason to run scared of the internet. I hope my activity is a positive thing.
Obviously it is far too late for me to attempt to hide myself on the internet now. Early on I made a decision not to hide my identity. But at the same time I didn’t force it down people’s throats. For a period I never mentioned my name on this blog. But in the end I decided to actually push my identity a bit more, but to be sensible about what I write.
claimID is one way to do it, but the jury is out on whether or not it’s of any good use. I’ve also devised my own little way (it’s unfinished, by the way) to keep tabs on my internet activity. On the one hand it might seem a bit narcissistic, but hopefully it gives me a bit of control over my identity on the internet.