I’ve never really been careful about my “Internet presence.” I’m a pretty liberal person with a pretty naïve view of human beings, and I truly believe that no one will take advantage of the things that I post on the Internet.
I am 22 years old, I have a college degree, and my mom still calls to lecture me about Internet safety every couple weeks. I’m fairly positive that if she had her way, my web presence would consist of a non-descript AOL e-mail address and a vague LinkedIn profile with a fake name.
I am no stranger to sending nude pictures. When you date a guy who lives across the country for three years, snapping pictures of your butt in a public restroom and sending them via text/Snapchat/e-mail/Facebook becomes commonplace. My iPhone camera has seen my butt more times than any human has, and working as a camgirl provided me with a steady secondary income during my last couple semesters of college.
The response I’ve received from almost anyone I’ve told about my secret life as a camgirl is identical, and sounds exactly like my mom’s reaction the first time I posted my full name online. “That will ruin your life if people find it!”
It’s a hard point to argue. We’ve all seen the careers of politicians, businessmen, celebrities, teachers, and clergymen ruined by pictures or information discovered on the Internet. The power of the Internet is amazing because it gives everyone the ability to share information and media instantly. This power can also, ostensibly, be used to ruin anyone’s life at the drop of a hat. The idea that all future employers, coworkers, friends, and potential partners are constantly searching online for any slip of judgment is the fear that keeps many away from liberal internet use.
But I see a fatal flaw in this looming threat of potential exposure. I live in a generation of frivolous and instantaneous social sharing, and despite the forewarnings of our elders, this content is often unfiltered. Posting provocative pictures, sexual or otherwise, has become the norm, and it does not seem to be a trend that is stopping anytime soon.
So, if this is the norm, how large is this threat to our “future”? If, in 20 years, I am applying for a job as a teacher in a suburb of the nation’s capital, how detrimental is that picture of my butt from college, when a similarly incriminating photo can be found of nearly all the other applicants?
I believe that we, as a generation, hold the power to change the unrealistic expectations of purity that exist in our current society. The idea that one drunken photo on the Internet can ruin the course of one’s entire career is absurd, and if we heed the advice of the older generation to avoid these posts altogether, we are perpetuating a culture of unhealthy standards of perfection. The frivolous nature of one’s past should have no bearing on their present or future success. If we, as a generation, continue to virtually document ever facet of our lives, we can create a world where our future is not dictated by our past. A world where one is free to share their dumb mistakes with friends without worrying how it will affect their life in a decade. A world where the pages of Google results for your name are nothing more than entertaining, and maybe a little embarrassing.