On the Internet Everyone Knows You’re a Dog (Bark Carefully)

A recent BusinessWeek article ("You Are What You Post") by Michelle Conlin may give Millennials (and everyone else) pause.

The article leads with a story about then 22-year-old Josh Santangelo’s 2001 posting on a dusty corner of the Internet about a bad drug trip. This caught the eye of super blogger Jason Kottke, and, after he linked too it, it became very popular. Now, Santangelo’s name pops up about 92,600 Google hits. Unfortunately, as the article states:

That was back when Santangelo was an up-all-night raver in giant pants and flame-red hair. Today he’s a Web development guy with a shaved head who shows up at meetings on time and in khakis. Clients have included such family-friendly enterprises as Walt Disney and Nickelodeon, as well as Starbucks, AT&T, and Microsoft.

And the business world is now tuned in to search engines as a rich source of information about potential employees:

Google is an end run around discrimination laws, inasmuch as employers can find out all manner of information—some of it for a nominal fee—that is legally off limits in interviews: your age, your marital status, the value of your house (along with an aerial photograph of it), the average net worth of your neighbors, fraternity pranks, stuff you wrote in college, liens, bankruptcies, political affiliations, and the names and ages of your children.

So, this could be trouble for those pouring out the intimate details of their personal and work lives on blogs, vlogs, social networking sites (e.g., MySpace), and other cool sites.

The article gives several amusing examples of employees fired for revealing too much on the Internet (amusing, that is, unless you’re the one fired).

Of course, there is the counter-notion that any publicity is good publicity. For example, celebrity sex tapes. A recent New York Times article ("Sex, Lawsuits and Celebrities Caught on Tape") by Lola Ogunnaike says about the Paris Hilton tape:

Ms. Hilton tried to stop distribution of the tape, although its notoriety paradoxically catapulted her to an even higher orbit of fame, establishing her as a kind of postmodern celebrity, leading to perfume deals, a memoir and the covers of Vanity Fair and W.

And, after discussing the latest round of celebrity sex tapes threatening to emerge, it says:

Celebrity sex tapes surface with such regularity that cynics question whether the stars themselves may be complicit, despite their efforts to suppress them in court, because of the publicity they bring.

However, this counter-notion may only apply to the already famous.

No doubt we’ll find out as part of a generation that’s digitally exposed itself on the Internet increasingly enters the workplace and competes within it.


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