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19/03/2006

Online overshare: the personal rep pitfalls

What if everything you had ever written down still existed, in plain view for everyone to see. Not just the off-day essays and excuse letters. The teenage diary entries, the love letters, the guileless ambition lists and paeans to rock-stars.

You know what's coming next. For the young today that's the reality.

For an early victim of "overshare" have a read of this story from BusinessWeek. It opens with a poor guy who late one night held forth online about his worst ever experience with drugs. Unfortunately the story was picked up by a high traffic site and now...

..."drug dump" still ranks No. 7 out of a total 92,600 Google hits that come up when you type in Santangelo's name. He says with a half-laugh that so far "it hasn't hurt me too bad," but he fears for the MySpacing, YouTubing, Facebooking masses -- the bloggers and vloggers (video bloggers) who fail to realize that there is no such thing as an eraser on the Internet. "I see people do that sort of thing now, and I think: 'Oh man, that could come back and bite you."'

Too right. When were we all going to start that campaign for personal reputation management to be taught in schools?

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Comments

This is something I've been wondering about for a while: the personal brand, somewhat like Hugh's 'global microbrand' (see gapingvoid.com).

People spend ages building an online reputation (brand), which, like a brand, can be pretty badly damaged by one or two thoughtless comments/posts/articles.

The internet does not forgive (or forget) easily.


Thanks for the comment, Shaun.

I think that by building your own presence online you can make the situation less precarious. If you are building up positive content and good connections with individuals and communities you are effectively building an insurance policy against personal error and even slander.

Just like a organisation or a brand's reputation, people can build their own equity online simply by having a live presence in that space.

And it also means you have a stronger voice to answer back should your good name be threatened.

You are what you write? I write therefore I am? There was a similar story on a podcast I caught recently (non-searchable so I can't remember the source I'm afraid) about a comment about an individual made by a third party suggesting an individual "had inhaled" which explained the sleepy look in a Flickr picture - and the individual is now concerned that future employers are discrimating against a potential drug user.
One could suggest that the responsibility for putting your information and image in the public domain lies with the individual - but in reality we just need both the readers and the posters to grow up a bit and realise that some of this stuff is real, some is malicious and some is plain old practical kidding.

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