Over the past few years I’ve observed, with great interest, my students’ varying opinions about their identity and behaviour online. And because I teach professional, post-graduate industry courses, I have different expectations of maturity from 20-something university graduates than I would for at-risk teens. A person in their mid to late twenties, seeking a career in a professional field has their experimentation days behind them, right? Not always so.
In the context of adult, professional learners who publish content under their own name and link this content back to their professional blogs or linkedin profiles, there is no good reason to post questionable content unless the object is to entertain, shock or amuse (versus professional networking).
But for those who do, it shouldn’t come as a shock when content you have published and broadcast in a public space is cited in a public space. If you are producing “media” in a public space under your own name you are no longer, properly, anonymous.
The internet isn’t the problem
It’s not that the internet is a big bad place. In fact, online professionals have made wonderful and effective use of it for some time. The problem is a context of behaviour that means very different things to different people.
Dismissing somebody’s opinion of your behaviour along the lines of “you just don’t get me” may be convenient for now, but sometimes decisions are made about that behaviour without your knowedge or consent. A lost job, a potential client, a new relationship – all of these contexts may be impacted in ways you never considered. Certain forms of behaviour are particular to the psychology of online life because human computer interaction sometimes reconfigures our sense of limits, appropriateness and risk.
More and more of the MySpace generation are coming of age and realising that the content they’ve been producing – or produced about them – is at odds with their adult life.
Sadly, many of these services make it all too easy to publish but very, very difficult to remove content — gone are the days of “select all delete” in a social media business that is all about the retention of user data/content. But there some options available to those who wish to reconfigure their online identity. Howard Rheingold explains:
““Detag” is a term that has recently entered the vocabulary, and which implies a whole world of concerns about privacy literacy — what people know and don’t know about possible repercussions from casual revelations on MySpace, Facebook, or other sites. I remember the students in my class who were among the first generation of students to discover that Facebook party pictures could cost them a job. But that was a few years ago — ancient history to today’s students.”
Continue reading “A college student’s thoughts about internet, privacy and reputation.”
Further reading: Emerging professionals: using social media responsibly