Like an urban legend with just enough creep factor to make you wonder if it's true, the issue of privacy on the internet is making the rounds again. You've probably seen at least one post on Facebook by a supposed teacher who wants to show their students how far their private posts can spread. You might have also seen the countless videos of random people being told important things about themselves, scraped from their social media footprint. These are, of course, meant to shock you into thinking twice about what you post online.
And I think the whole thing is kinda dumb.
Don't get me wrong, there's a reason you keep certain things private. Things like your bank account, social security, and other sensitive information aside, I'm not advocating for the #YOLO mentality.
(For those of us over the age of fifteen: #YOLO is the millennial varient of the baby boomers' Sha la la la la la live for today and Gen-X's F*ck that noise.)
Posting a manifesto-length rant about how much you hate your boss on social media is probably a really bad idea. But you know what else is a bad idea? Spouting the same rant in real life over happy hour drinks to your coworkers, even if you are 100% sure they agree with you. Why? For the same reason: it could come back and bite you in the ass. This is not what I'm talking about when I say worrying about online privacy is dumb.
Confession time: I have said and done a lot of dumb, embarrassing, poorly thought out, and terrible things online. I have also said and done a lot of dumb, embarrassing, poorly thought out, and terrible things in real life. Sometimes my brain even likes to be evil and remind me of those moments and yes, I squirm a little on the inside when I think about the fact that I can be a complete idiot without extolling much effort. But do you know what I don't do?
I don't think about the dumb, embarrassing, poorly thought out, and terrible things YOU have done.
You, in this instance, refers to everyone in existence. I'm not judging you because you once made a questionable fashion choice and posted pictures online. I'm not judging you for the phase you went through in junior high. I'm not even judging you for posting a facebook check in to a Nickleback concert (not much, anyway).
Yes, there are people who will, but you should probably understand by now that THEY are the ones with issues. Too often I see people post pictures they took of people they don't even know just for the sake of making fun of them. It's a despicable practice that should be illegal, but good luck getting that one to stick in an age where all of us are armed with a camera at all times.
Less hateful, but equally embarrassing is the oblivious friend who tags you in the least flattering pictures, or the older relative who is just tech savvy enough to post a Throw Back Thursday picture of your toddler self running naked through a sprinkler, or worse, your awkward phase.
There is nothing you can do about this except let it roll off your back. There is a whole world of random, stupid, and time wasting things on the internet. Let's just say you did something idiotic and it went viral. Okay, sure, you are going to be the butt of jokes for a few days, maybe even a few weeks. Should this ruin your life?
A week later, someone else will do something that will get everyone talking and no one will know who you are once again. Lather, rinse, repeat. This is the internet. All of our shameful secrets are out there for anyone to see at any time, but let's be honest: no one is looking for them.
But just in case you are, here's my school picture from eighth grade, the year I was bullied into transferring to private school and yes, I thought that hair style was a good idea at the time.