t’s Homecoming for many high schools around the area this week. I spent my last weekend traipsing through the rain to get the perfect location for a picture of my son and his girlfriend. Almost an hour sitting in traffic for five photos. Now, admittedly, they’re pretty good photos.
And if those photographs don’t end up online, were they really taken? If they didn’t get at least 100 likes or comments, then why even bother? We are conditioned now that sharing online is the norm. Beyond the obvious photographs of life milestones, we share what we had for lunch. We share what the lady in the cube next to us yelled at the taxi driver. We share many of our thoughts. Many of those thoughts aren’t spoken out loud, they’re simply shared online.
It’s a slippery slope from sharing Homecoming pictures on a platform that makes it so easy to share everything else. And those photos, comments, likes, and shares are forever. It is that fact that is so easily forgotten. We saw this most recently with Shane Gillis, a comedian who was set to begin the season on Saturday Night Live. After he was announced, it didn’t take long before some of his jokes were found online that sparked controversy. He never made it to Studio 8H in Rockefeller Center.
The same has happened to politicians, comedians, actors, and even Joe and Jane Q. Public. Nearly every week another story turns up about someone being fired or being under fire for something they said online.
A college student posted a sign in the background of ESPN’s College Gameday live asking for money for beer, then listing his Venmo account. After receiving $600, the student decided to donate all of the money to a local children’s hospital. He then went on to raise nearly a million dollars. Cool story, right? A reporter dug into the student’s online accounts and found tweets from three years prior (when he was 16) making two racist jokes about black people. The childrens’ hospital still got the money. But the student’s reputation was tarnished.
Karma reared its ugly head, however, when the reporters past tweets revealed his feelings on same-sex marriage, domestic abuse, and some racial slurs. The reporter was fired.
There’s a part of me that feels bad for people if they’ve said one thing wrong online five years ago. I mean, surely there’s an arc of maturity for a person. Things I said when I was 20 don’t necessarily reflect who I am now (at the age of 28, obviously.)
But the other part of me recognized that what you put online five years ago is forever and remains timeless. It’s like a small billboard that you carry around with you the rest of your life that shows your innermost feelings at any time of your life you felt them. And you did it to yourself, because you posted it online.
It starts with a homecoming photo, but it ends with an off-color joke about your Asian neighbor. If you live online, you have no one to blame but yourself.
(Get online with Chris Kamler on Twitter where he is known as @TheFakeNed. Find him on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and YouTube)