A couple of days ago, my friend Nicole posted a thought-provoking public service announcement on her Facebook page.
She works for a law firm but she isn’t an attorney so it has always been a bit mysterious to me what she does there, but the situation became a little bit clearer this week when she put out this warning to kids, teenagers, college students and adults.
“Do not, I repeat, do not, post crap online that is inflammatory, derogatory, pornographic or anything that you would not want your Grandmother, Mother, Father, Pastor, Priest, Bishop or Probation Officer to see. It will prevent you from getting a job.”
Turns out part of what she does is screen law school grads for employment in the fancy law firm where she works by checking out their social media and online presence and a long day of those screenings had made her sad for all the young folks who have mountains of student debt but may never get a decent job because they have aired all their relationship woes on Facebook along with a flood of unseemly selfies.
As I am no stranger to the late-night, wine-fueled Facebook rant, her advice stung a little. I am, after all, old enough to know better. But for these recent grads, they have been living their entire lives online. They know nothing different and I am sure most of them have absolutely no idea that the recording for posterity of all their youthful indiscretions might come back later and bite them on the butt — which they so carelessly exposed while on spring break in Cancun.
My curiosity being aroused, I decided to screen myself and see what happened. I don’t have access to LexisNexis or the other sophisticated databases a law firm would have, but I have Google and Bing.
Wow! For someone in late middle age, a thorough Googling and Binging is like a detailed walk down memory lane. Quite honestly, I had forgotten most of this stuff. I’ve decided an iPad is probably a very useful accessory as I age. I’ll write my name on it and then if I get confused as to who I am, sooner or later I’ll Google the name on the iPad.
The good news for my future dotty self is the first thing that pops up on a Google search is my Facebook profile which, as I have already said, has way too much information about me. The bad news for job applicants and law school grads who have hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loan debt to pay off, the first thing that pops up on a Google search is probably their Facebook profile also.
Google then revealed a bio on the website of a craft guild I no longer belong to but whose Facebook page I still apparently administer, as well as LinkedIn, Twitter and the White Pages, even though I haven’t had a land-line phone in a decade. Then an obituary — false alarm, different Bill Colvard, I’m not dead yet — then an assortment of stories I’ve written for The Mount Airy News, in no particular order.
Instagram, more stories, my Dad’s obituary, this is getting sad so I move on to Bing since my friend said she uses it in her checks, and things got interesting. I’ve never used Bing before. I’ve been a dedicated Googler since the turn of the millennium but a Bing search tells me why she uses it. There is some crazy stuff here.
It’s not surprising that LinkedIn comes before Facebook since Microsoft bought LinkedIn recently. I wade through the newspaper stories I’ve written, several obituaries though I remain stubbornly undead, business listings for a business I closed six years ago and then I start running into old blogs.
There was a time when I thought it would be fun to be a blogger. Being long on enthusiasm and short on follow-through, none of them ever had more than a few posts. One of them is pretty funny but I can’t believe they’re still floating around out there.
Then, the crème de la crème. A link to “The Gloss” where they awarded me “Comment of the Day” for Oct. 4, 2010, in which the editorial board complimented me with “Gold star for you Bill Colvard! In the future, we’re using ‘embracing a fetish or making it look as though you do’ as a solution to every problem we encounter.” It’s not as racy as it sounds but I wouldn’t want to have to explain it to an employer. Oh, crap — now I’m going to have to do just that. See how oversharing leads to problems.
The moral of the story is to be careful of what you put on the internet. It’s out there to stay. And no one who is ever planning to look for a job again at any time during the whole rest of their life should ever post a naked picture on the internet. A rule that, if successfully followed by everyone, would lead to an internet where all the nekkid selfies are of retired people.
As an added benefit, that should knock internet porn down to a manageable, if unappetizing, level.
Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699 or on Twitter @BillColvard.