Monday, July 26, 2010

The Web Means the End of Forgetting by Jeffrey Rosen

Instead of reading the magazine section of the Sunday New York Times on the train to work, I read it in Alley Pond Park today since I am on staycation. The cover article titled The Web Means the End of Forgetting really piqued my interest. It is written by Jeffrey Rosen, a law professor at George Washington University. The articles discusses the fact the posts on Facebook, Twitter, and personal blogs may be impossible to erase and what is written there may adversely effect someone for years to come. I must admit that I have been guilty of a few minor indiscretions in what I have posted. I try to be careful, but I do make mistakes. I would like to discuss a few specific points made in this article.

Below is the first paragraph of the article:

"Four years ago, Stacy Snyder, then 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.” After discovering the page, her supervisor at the high school told her the photo was “unprofessional,” and the dean of Millersville University School of Education, where Snyder was enrolled, said she was promoting drinking in virtual view of her under-age students. As a result, days before Snyder’s scheduled graduation, the university denied her a teaching degree. Snyder sued, arguing that the university had violated her First Amendment rights by penalizing her for her (perfectly legal) after-hours behavior. But in 2008, a federal district judge rejected the claim, saying that because Snyder was a public employee whose photo didn’t relate to matters of public concern, her “Drunken Pirate” post was not protected speech. "

Thus anyone who is actively looking for a job must be especially about what he/she puts on the web. People like myself with a unique name can be very easily "Googled". I do understand that people do have a life outside of work and some silliness reported on the web is acceptable. Someone may see this journal and strike up a conversation with me about Bob Dylan. I am now very careful about my privacy settings on Facebook. Everything can only be seen by my Friends. I really should cull my friends list and delete people that I don't really know.

I will just copy one more paragraph and comment:

But if we can’t control what others think or say or view about us, we can control our own reaction to photos, videos, blogs and Twitter posts that we feel unfairly represent us. A recent study suggests that people on Facebook and other social-networking sites express their real personalities, despite the widely held assumption that people try online to express an enhanced or idealized impression of themselves. Samuel Gosling, the University of Texas, Austin, psychology professor who conducted the study, told the Facebook blog, “We found that judgments of people based on nothing but their Facebook profiles correlate pretty strongly with our measure of what that person is really like, and that measure consists of both how the profile owner sees him or herself and how that profile owner’s friends see the profile owner.”

I have been on the Internet since 1992 and strongly believe that you don't know a person until you have met face to face. I have known people who have sent nasty and crude e-mails, but in person are quite timid. The opposite is likely true at times. When you see a complete profile, you can view what a person does and even see many pictures of the person in action. But that is still not the full story about the person. There have been many misunderstandings through electronic only communication.

I highly recommend that readers of Bruce's Journal see this entire article from the New York Times.

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