Wednesday, February 27, 2013

"Do as I say", not as I did: how online reputation has changed everything

I noted, in a draft from a chapter conclusion of an upcoming book, the irrevocable nature of the decision I made in the 1990s to publish my own story with respect to “gay rights” and the military ban, leveraging a connection between an event earlier in my life and the tricky policy issues of the ban (and of what would be known as “don’t ask don’t tell” until repealed).  The subject matter of my arguments grew out from this one singular issue, which made the “passive self-broadcast” inherent in the Web 1.0 environment a decade ago particularly effective.  I would even say that if I had not stayed “out there” all this time, we just might not have the repeal of DADT (and maybe even the “victories” in “Lawrence v. Texas” and COPA earlier). 
I made myself a personality in an environment that is now passé.  I did it at a time when one could live a “double life” openly (as if this were an oxymoron).  I could appropriate my Internet presence to leveraging my own views.  But after 2001 or so, it became apparent that the world would care more about online reputation than it had before.  By 2006, it was becoming common for employers to view online reputation, even on personal sites and social media, as very much their business.  Most people would have to appropriate their use of their own social media presence for business and career purposes, and could not afford to play devil’s advocate with their own views, in order to help win political battles with irony as I did.
So I have to say, “do as I say”, and not “do as I have done”.  I don’t recommend that people gambit their second careers on venting their political and social theories as I did.  But I had a life history and set of circumstances that I believed to be truly unique (involving both civilian discrimination and the military draft with a couple of Mobius twists).  Most of my friends, including those of college age just getting started on adult life, have no incentive like the one that I did., to create their own limelight with controversy and paradox.  Some of my friends are very gifted in some areas (art, music, performance, software programming,  even comedy , among others).  If you’re good at something and can sell yourself in more established media channels, by all means do so.  And finish college.  (Unless you’re Bryce Harper.)
There was a time when I thought I might enter a second “professional” career – especially teaching, but coming out of the Web 1.0 world, I had expected that this could mean taking everything down and undoing my presence (even in the Internet archive, maybe).   I used to call this my own “Website Persistence Policy” along with my own idea of what a Blogging Policy should be.  That no longer sounds feasible, given the direction that social media (most of all Facebook) took.  In fact, the spin today is that you almost have to have an online presence of your own.  There is a real risk, as I reported on the Internet Safety blog on Feb. 25, that if you don’t, someone could “Argo” your reputation with a fake or pirated profile mimicking you.  There are plenty of stories about this problem (besides the recent one on NBC4 discussed Feb. 25) dating back to 2008, to be found on search engines. 

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