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Rule #9: Remember, The Internet Is Forever

I have a set of self-imposed rules that I live my life by. The genesis of these rules was inspired by a movie I saw when I was a lanky, awkward 14 year old. It wasn’t until recently, though, that I decided to finally write them down. For those of you keeping score, that means I spent 10 years with this idea rattling around in my head. I currently have a total of 43 rules and counting. I’m here to share rule #9 with you. Remember, The Internet is Forever.

The other day I had a horrifying thought. Facebook came into existence around 2004. I didn’t start using it until 2006. My first nephew was born in 2007. Recently I had an opportunity to watch him read some books. It was pretty cool to realize that not that long ago, he didn't even exist. Now he could read just about anything.

Then I connected the dots and realized he could read any number of status updates, comments, or pictures from my past. All without any context, explanation, or degree of censorship to make me look like any less of an idiot. 

And I have a feeling this realization is no less pleasant for the parents whose children are quickly becoming literate.

I have one enormous issue with keeping a diary, journal, or any kind of record of my past. Anytime I take a look back, it isn't long before I cringe so hard that my furrowing eyebrows could create an impact crater in the surface of the Earth. Maybe I know too much. Maybe I’m too close to the situations to just sit back and enjoy how it all played out. My horror came to light when I realized that at this very moment, my nephew could find some flirtatious comment I made on some girl's photo from my high school days. I probably thought I was so clever (and I most certainly never was). Now that my nephew can read, there's nothing I can do to call it back.

In spite of this, Facebook has changed my past into a monument of my disgrace.

So before you click Send, Post, or press the Enter key, I’m going to offer some unsolicited advice. Stop for just a few seconds. Think to yourself - Would you be totally alright with this thing being permanently associated with your name? Would you have any problems with the fact that complete strangers can search for most of this stuff and find the source of it all? That source being you? 

So, don't fall for the illusion of privacy. It no longer exists on the internet. Rule #9 has saved me from countless cringe-worthy moments. I only hope it can do some good for you.

From the desk of Bryce Tobin, student producer and head rant-writer for The Matt Townsend Show.

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