In today's digitally-driven world, countless people are being electronically embarrassed each day, whether it’s from trolling, cyber-slamming, digital drama, revenge porn, sexting or other malicious virtual take-downs.
This culture of destroying people with the simple stroke of a keyboard is much more than a fad—it's the new normal. We have all sat back and watched the escalation of these vicious virtual pile-ons: celebrities and schoolgirls being slammed for their looks, an avalanche of ill will over one ill-conceived tweet, people losing jobs, scholarships, and their reputations for voicing an unpopular thought.
How have we reached this state of shame nation, where our collective outrage is constantly being triggered against an endless supply of fresh victims?
Facing reality — virtually
As someone that was a victim of Internet defamation and online shame, I know the consequences of being attacked by trolls that spread lies and attempt to ruin your digital landscape. From 2003 through 2006 my name didn’t survive a Google rinse cycle.
In a recent YouGov Omnibus survey although almost half (45 percent) of women have privatized their social media presence to hide information from strangers, over half of Americans (56 percent) and 65 percent of millennials perform internet searches before dating someone.
According to a recent CareerBuilders survey 70 percent of employers use search engines to screen applicants before interviewing them while 57 percent of businesses won’t consider you if they can’t find you online.
These are significant numbers which means going off the grid isn’t a good idea if you will be in the job market or looking for love.
If you own a business be prepared for backlash online if you have disgruntled clients or unhappy workers; 71 percent of people would not to apply to companies with negative publicity reports a CareerBuilders survey.
Trust but confirm: stay skeptical
How can we sort through what we read online, especially given what we now know was a spike in fake news articles widely circulated during the 2016 presidential election season? Internet critic Howard Rheingold, author of Net Smart: How to Thrive Online, created a quick way to evaluate anything you see on the web for accuracy, using four criteria. It’s known as the CRAP Detection test:
- Currency: How recent or up-to-date is the information?
- Reliability: Is the content opinion-based or balanced? Does it provide references and sources for data?
- Authority: Who is the author or source, are they reputable?
- Point of View: Does the poster have an agenda or is he/she trying to sell something?
With CRAP it can help you sort through cyber-fact verses cyber-fiction, but will potential employers or mates take the time to decipher the information?
Tweet regrets and mis-posts
Why do we post things that we know could get us in trouble? Are we not thinking it through in the heat of the moment, or do we think no one is paying attention? Are we simply naive, thinking that what we say is only among friends? Are we craving the approval of all those likes or retweets? Your online behavior should be the best reflection of who you are off-line, but so many of us don’t live up to that ideal.
Just because you have a job doesn’t mean you’re safe. Eighty percent of businesses have social media policies in place today. Recently the Juli Briskman incident, posting her infamous finger flipping to the president’s motorcade as a profile picture, was fired from her company for violating social media policy.
Although Briskman has stated to many media outlets she doesn’t regret it, there are others that have had digital blunders and felt differently.
One Texas single mom finally landed a job, she posted on her Facebook page, “I start my new job today, but I absolutely hate working at day cares.” When some of her friends expressed sympathy for her, she said — “LOL, it’s all good, I just really hate being around a lot of kids.”
What happened next was—maybe—for the best.The post spread to a local online yard-sale mom’s group, which was offended by her attitude. Strangers who didn’t know her started a cyber attack, calling her a “dumb bitch,” saying she had “Bubonic plague,” and worse.
The daycare was notified, contacted this single mom and she was told she no longer had the job. She admitted it was a big mistake, she doesn’t hate kids, she has her own child - she was only venting. However like all things on social - they are public and unforgiving.
Cost of online shame
Today just over a quarter of millennials (26 percent) and 21 percent of adults overall, according to the YouGov Omnibus survey, say they have not gone out on a date with someone after finding negative content about them on social media or elsewhere on the Internet.
Digging deeper for digital dirt, 48 percent of women said that even if the first date went well, they would not continue a relationship if they found negative content online while 28 percent of men agreed.
It seems every day we read headlines of people that will post comments, images or videos that will land them on the unemployment line. From the Navy Hospital staff that posted pictures of newborn babies to Snapchat to the teacher’s aide that insulted the former First Lady, everyone is a click away from digital disgrace and termination.
1. Be mindful with your sharing. Write as if the world is watching (because they are).
2. Consider your Facebook profile picture. Did you know it was public?
- Many singles will Facebook friend their potential date. Create lists so they aren't privy to all your information.
3. Showcase your work, don't show-off. Humblebraggers don’t make you seem genuine.
4. Check-in with yourself before you post. Never put a temporary emotion on the permanent Internet.
5. Never air your workplace woes.
For more insights order Shame Nation: The Global Epidemic of Online Hate (Sourcebooks, October 2017) foreword by Monica Lewinsky.