The irony is so thick you could spread it on a bagel: In Today’s Times, Tom Friedman writes about living our lives in public thanks to the bloggers, vloggers, and podcasters who can watch our any, if not every, move and tell the world about it. Of course, the column itself is not in the public. It’s behind the wall. Anyway, Friedman tells a story he told at the Personal Democracy Forum (columnists, like bloggers, are good recyclers):
Three years ago, I was catching a plane at Boston’s Logan airport and went to buy some magazines for the flight. As I approached the cash register, a woman coming from another direction got there just behind me — I thought. But when I put my money down to pay, the woman said in a very loud voice: “Excuse me! I was here first!” And then she fixed me with a piercing stare that said: “I know who you are.” I said I was very sorry, even though I was clearly there first.
If that happened today, I would have had a very different reaction. I would have said: “Miss, I’m so sorry. I am entirely in the wrong. Please, go ahead. And can I buy your magazines for you? May I buy your lunch? Can I shine your shoes?”
Why? Because I’d be thinking there is some chance this woman has a blog or a camera in her cellphone and could, if she so chose, tell the whole world about our encounter — entirely from her perspective — and my utterly rude, boorish, arrogant, thinks-he-can-butt-in-line behavior. Yikes! . . .
For young people, writes [Dov] Seidman, this means understanding that your reputation in life is going to get set in stone so much earlier. More and more of what you say or do or write will end up as a digital fingerprint that never gets erased. Our generation got to screw up and none of those screw-ups appeared on our first job rÃ©sumÃ©s, which we got to write. For this generation, much of what they say, do or write will be preserved online forever. Before employers even read their rÃ©sumÃ©s, they’ll Google them.
“The persistence of memory in electronic form makes second chances harder to come by,” writes Seidman. “In the information age, life has no chapters or closets; you can leave nothing behind, and you have nowhere to hide your skeletons. Your past is your present.” So the only way to get ahead in life will be by getting your “hows” right.
I’m going at this from a different perspective in a post I’ll be putting up soon about the positive aspects of living life in public.