A young friend of mine who works for a hip magazine in a super-hip city recently Tweeted a negative reference to her workplace. A few hours later, her boss called her in to the office, and told her she was lucky to be working at such a great place, and to NEVER say negative things again about the job. My young friend was surprised and angry.
“My Twitter name is not the same as my real name.” Still, it was close enough. And my friend’s face was on the online masthead of the mag, and she has been becoming a recognizable personality in her city. She gets stopped in the grocery store: “Don’t you write for…?”
Luckily my friend did not lose her job; she just got a warning. She was naive to think that she could gripe online and not be called accountable.
We all fall into this trap from time to time, even those of us who are grey-haired (until we enter the Aveda salon), and veterans of the net. Just last night I was home alone, griping about being a “dance widow.” My husband goes to Contra dance festivals and I stay home and read. My choice, but the weekend can seem long. This morning, I asked Lou to help me post a photo on Red Room that was fighting back.
He sat down at the computer to help me, and whatever Google button he pressed brought up my “dance widow” blog. Quickly I ripped the keyboard from his competent hands! “Don’t read that!” I said. The illusion of privacy is seductive, and coupled with the sense that someone is listening, one can easily become “a private soul wailing at any public wall.”
Careful, I tell myself, my students, my young friend. Don’t publish online anything you wouldn’ t wan t your boss to see–or your sweet husband, or a potential employer. Would William Burroughs have survived the interne t? He would have created a blog to end all blogs. He invented the original talking asshole, after all. The rest of us, though, need to remember that people do read what we post.