The Whole World Really Isn’t Watching
Thomas Friedman is very, very afraid of bloggers.
When everyone has a blog, a MySpace page or Facebook entry, everyone is a publisher. When everyone has a cellphone with a camera in it, everyone is a paparazzo. When everyone can upload video on YouTube, everyone is filmmaker. When everyone is a publisher, paparazzo or filmmaker, everyone else is a public figure. We’re all public figures now. The blogosphere has made the global discussion so much richer — and each of us so much more transparent.
More and more of what you say or do or write will end up as a digital fingerprint that never gets erased. Our generation got to screw up and none of those screw-ups appeared on our first job résumés, which we got to write. For this generation, much of what they say, do or write will be preserved online forever. Before employers even read their résumés, they’ll Google them.
Ezra Klein correctly points out that this is nonsense:
Look: I am young people. I do Google folks. And you know what? There’s not much there. Most people don’t even come up. And certainly most screw-ups aren’t in online existence. If you start a blog under your name, or populate your MySpace profile with keg stands, you’ll be creating a record you may not be interested in. But the pictures of you as an acrobatic alcoholic can be taken down when you apply for jobs — nothing permanent about that fingerprint — and surprisingly few folks start blogs under their own name. The record just isn’t that substantial. And it’s certainly less substantial than it was a few generations ago, when you’d probably be applying for jobs in the city you grew up in, where there was a living, communal memory of the time you fell off the barn drunk.
Quite right. I write several blogs under my own name on which I have written well over ten thousand entries, have a Facebook and other social media profiles, a YouTube channel, a personal website, and even post my photos on Flickr. My life is much more of an open book than 99.99% of the population. And, still, there’s not that much of me out there.
Certainly, I’d be screwed if I were applying for a job as Ann Coulter’s publicist or as an editor for Mother Jones. Then again, I’m not going to do that.
Similarly, were there photos in existence of me doing really stupid things, I wouldn’t put them up on MySpace. And, if I had, I’d have enough sense to take them down before applying for jobs. Those too stupid to show some judgment as to what they post about themselves online have bigger issues to worry about than the proliferation of technology.
A side issue that Ezra picks up on, getting kudos from Megan McArdle, is Friedman’s penchant for taking an interesting insight to its illogical conclusion. As a former teacher, I sympathize with the desire to simplify the complex for his audience, even at the sacrifice of detail. The ability to convey a 90% truth quickly in a way that will be remembered is valuable, indeed. Unfortunately, all too often, Friedman winds up seizing upon a 10% truth.