Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Web and the End of Forgetting

One of the reasons I agreed to testify in the 2007 Landis arbitration hearing was because it gave me the opportunity to ever so slightly influence the context surrounding the news of my own positive doping test. To some degree I was able to manage the release of that difficult story.

But a recent New York Times article reminds us of how deadly the web can be to our career prospects. In his article, "The Web Means the End of Forgetting, "  Jeffrey Rosen articulates one of the most depressing contradictions of the Internet Age:

"It’s often said that we live in a permissive era, one with infinite second chances. But the truth is that for a great many people, the permanent memory bank of the Web increasingly means there are no second chances — no opportunities to escape a scarlet letter in your digital past. Now the worst thing you’ve done is often the first thing everyone knows about you."

While I don't recommend that you click-off Pappillon right this instant and start reviewing the results of a Google search on your name, I would suggest that you never - not even for a second - take for granted the banality of your online persona. I'm very lucky in that I have the rare chance to interact with many of you via Pappillon, and more so through Twitter and FaceBook, but I shudder to think how bad the fall-out would be if that part of my life that I truly keep personal was suddenly splashed across the 'net in words and pictures.

Especially pictures...

You younger fans of Pappillon, especially, have got to be wary of what you upload to your MySpace and FaceBook profiles. I know you don't have a care in the world right now other than training and racing and racing and training, and many of you are focused like lasers on the goal of becoming the best athletes you can be, but spare a thought for the negative consequences of social networking.

Learn how FaceBook's privacy settings operate and understand why your shouldn't make your profile searchable by every Dick with a Fios connection. Don't upload party photos, even the ones that you and your friends are totally cool with and don't find anything compromising about. And watch-out who you attack on Twitter, or how loose with your words you get in online forums.

Search methodology - and technology - is going to continue to advance. And with progress comes the danger that someone from the future who is evaluating you for a job or admission to a school or promotion in the military, or a hundred other judgment situations will find some that you wrote, uploaded or said and, taking it totally out of context, will decide that you're too risky a person to ally with going forward...

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