Monday, November 24, 2014

What goes on the internet can haunt you

I have seen people post--on their own accounts, with their pictures and real names attached--some really vile stuff. I'm not talking about opinions I don't agree with. I'm talking about slurs, harassment, and threats. I'm talking about behavior that, if you saw someone engage in it in meatspace, you'd be creeped out and possibly reaching for the phone. There have been several instances that I know about--a couple at least that have made the news--of an online horde targeting and harassing people they didn't like.

This isn't an issue with anonymity, since I've known people who acted this way in meatspace. Many of these people have their pictures and their real names, and identifying information attachedd to these accounts.

It's you people I'm talking to now, the ones who rage post, who troll, who harass online, who think you can do this with impunity: You may want to stop that. Google is a thing.

No one wants to hire or work with someone who could be dangerous or nasty in the office. They want someone who will work well with others. They want someone who will respect privacy and confidentiality (especially in certain occupations and organizations). They want someone who will not be a litigation risk.

And you know? I can't think of too many people who want to hang out with someone who's capable of that kind of behavior. Yes, I've run into a lot of idiots who will insist that their friend really is a nice guy underneath it all, but when all that nice guy shows you is an abusive bully, well, you can't be blamed for not wanting to stick around and get to know him better.

So if someone does or says something you don't like, you can express why you didn't like it. But if you start threatening them or hassling them, you're not going to stand out as a desirable employee (or as a desirable friend, honestly). If you start posting slurs in response to what they said, you're not going to be the number one candidate for the job; just the circular file. No one is hacking into your private accounts to see this stuff. When I look on Facebook at say, a movie fan page, and I see some guy saying that a certain actress is a dumb #$&* for uploading private pictures to the cloud, and uses a bunch of other choice words to describe her and other people who disagree with him, I tend to think he's a scumbag. (And rather stupid, since your email can also get hacked and disseminated.) If I am on Twitter and I see someone responding abusively to another person's Tweet, I'm not going to form a good impression of them. I'm going to think they are vile people. I am going to be reluctant to work with them or associate with them in any way.

Yes, it's not fair. But you have got to face the fact that the way you act will affect how people view you. Yes, you should act like a decent human being. That doesn't entitle you to anything but a fair shot at anything (be it a job, a relationship, or anything else). But it's the basic starting point for civilized behavior.

Don't act that way? Don't be surprised if you get a lot of cold shoulders.

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