Social Media: The New Town Gossip
In days of old, the town gossip held a uniquely powerful position, just behind the local doctor and the priest - but the other two weren't talking.
In that last few years however, we have embraced social media in a manner that makes it an even more far-reaching town gossip. We seem to lay ourselves bare (sometimes literally) at every opportunity, and while it may be cathartic it can also be embarrassing and potentially problematic.
The fact that we can post entries "on the go" from our smartphones adds another layer of danger - the drunken post, tweet, or photo. We all do things that we sometimes cringe over in the cold light of day, but now we have a record of it for posterity - and for virtually anyone else to examine.
Employers and others have stumbled upon this gold mine of our character flaws writ large. Recent reports of prospective employers or schools demanding Facebook account information from applicants was surely a wake-up call. Alarmingly, even rape victims are not immune from attempts at this kind of scrutiny. Back in the day, the town gossip might hint "Her? everyone knows she gets around..." Now, lawyers want to pore over Facebook posts to see what they might find.
That's the problem with ubiquity - it's everywhere. Once something lands on the Web, it's pretty much there for good. Privacy? Well, when you put content out there yourself, there should be an awareness that things can get out of your control. And while everyone makes mistakes (how else does one learn?), it can be tough to have them thrown back in your face at a job interview...