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Around the World in 30 Seconds!
Wednesday, June 22, 2011 • Posted June 22, 2011

On Monday night, while I was at the school board meeting, I used my Blackberry smartphone to take a photo of Coaches Kade Burns and Salah Smith and new teacher, Julie Burns. Before the board had time to move on to their next agenda item, I had already uploaded the photo to facebook, letting everyone know of the board's decision.

In less than a minute, a photo taken by a cellphone was available to everyone on the internet. Part of me celebrates the immediacy with which we can move things into the public form, while another part of me cringes at the loss of privacy such technology has brought into our lives.

The Hollywood tabloids have been filled with stories for the past month about photos of young actresses, in comprimising or embarassing situations, that have "gone viral" and been seen by millions. With only a few clicks, a lapse in judgement allows all the world to see them at their most vulnerable.

I was intrigued by testimony in the Casey Anthony murder trial from technology experts. By looking at her computer, they could see that, just prior to her daughter's disappearance, Casey had done searches for "choloraform," "duct tape," "broken neck." Besides showing that she didn't know how to spell, the searches also showed the jury that she had been looking up terms that would later be included in investigators reports of likely cause of death. Everything is permanent in the electronic world, especially when we most hope it will disappear. Pictures taken at a party. Text messages sent during a moment of passion. Emails sent in the heat of anger.

When I've taught people how to use email, I always caution them about the immediate nature of this electronic tool. When we relied upon written communication rather than electronic, there was time to consider our words, to reconsider whether or not it should be mailed, and time to let our feelings calm down before taking action.

Email changes all of that. In a moment of anger, we can send an email to literally hundreds of people spewing out our derision and venom. In an ill-conceived choice of words, we can destroy reputations and end friendships.

And it's not just email. There is text messaging, which has become a more favored form of communication among many youngsters than actual conversation.

And there's twitter. And foursquare. And facebook. I've seen some very public disputes carried out in the electronic community by people who forget that all the world is watching. Or, perhaps, they didn't forget - they just didn't care. They didn't care that everyone could see them behaving badly. Everyone could see them losing their temper. Everyone could see them making bad choices.

I'm a user of most electronic media. I have so many accounts that I often forget my many logins and passwords, or get them confused. And, I take photos and upload them. And, I make comments about where I am, what I'm doing and who else is there.

But we need to be careful. Photos of someone making out can come back to haunt all those involved. Pictures of someone drinking can be used against them later. Comments that reveal someone is on vacation leaves their home vulnerable.

It's a whole new world out there, and we're still learning all the rules. We're also learning what the impacts are to ourselves and the rest of the people we document going about their daily lives. One thing that we need to keep at the forefront of this discovery is that it is people involved. People can be harmed by our choices of what to include on all our social media sites. And we have to learn how to mitigate that harm and to temper our own desire to document our lives.

And, we need to remember that potential employers can use all that information we've put out there when they're considering us for jobs. All those photos of us doing things we now wouldn't do. All those comments about people that we now wish we had never made. So tread lightly, and think about your actions before they join the electronic world.

It’s all just my opinion.

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