New Media and Trust

December 11, 2008

Trust. Privacy. Caution.

There was the Obama speechwriter getting plastered and winding up with embarrassing photos on Facebook. Sarah Palin got nailed by local bloggers writing unflattering things in their blogs. Patti Blagojevich(sp) had phone calls recorded and is now looking like a backbiting schemer. It’s enough to make even a seasoned ‘NetVet like myself a bit paranoid.

I myself have been in a few UseNet rows, but not since the early nineties. As an employee of the first ISP in Maryland I worked for a guy who could see what was coming and he made sure we knew not to consider UseNet as throwaway fora that would eventually evaporate. Because they won’t, once it’s on the Internet if Google doesn’t cache it someone else will.

It is ironic that the ephemeral is so eternal after all. We cannot physically see or touch these lines on this screen but they aren’t going anywhere. Every computer that has ever connected to the Internet would have to be vaporized in order for anyone to be sure something incriminating or embarrassing is gone forever, and then there will still be witnesses.

We are inflicting a police state upon ourselves by using all these New Media, because we are leaving evidence trails with every IM chat, Google search or email, and most of the time we don’t even think twice about it. Of course, the vast majority of us are not (at least knowingly) doing anything wrong. Or at least nothing we consider embarrassing at the time. But, having come through my twenties on the Internet I am very glad that my old boss saw fit to instill the cautions that he did. I have been very careful to try not to put up anything too embarrassing, but not everyone is so fortunate. The MySpace suicide is an extreme example of how people using New Media fail to recognize its power and don’t realize the possible consequences.

So while we are trying to use our New Media Powers Only For Good it is worth a few second thoughts and reconsiderations before hitting that send key. Back in the day, AOL users got used to being able to pull their emails back if the recipient hadn’t read them. When they got to the Real Internet many were shocked that they couldn’t do that and no few wound up seriously embarrassed.

I take being online for granted, but I am often very surprised that a Google search on someone from school doesn’t yield results. I expect people to appear and to see what they are up to. Some folks have wisely refrained from the fray, others just don’t have any use for it. How do we know those folks are not a part of our audience?

I feel myself going all spaghetti again, but I do think it is important to remain aware of the power of twitter, Facebook and blogs, if not to uplift then at least to humiliate. Practice Safe Networking out there, people!

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2 Responses to “New Media and Trust”

  1. mpfinneran Says:

    digitized/open-sourced/interactivated/networked/metadatad/tracked/tagged/followed … you are … what you eat.

  2. Melissa (Dorsey) McDowell Says:

    Does that make me STEAK?


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