Online Anonymity a Thing of the Past – Get used to It

Sarah West Lobos, Government Public Affairs Specialist

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again – You are no longer anonymous online.

Last week we saw the best political scandal nickname in recent history come to light – WeinerGate. A simple typo on a “smart” phone gave the entire world insight into Representative Anthony Weiner’s private, no pun intended, world. A world which he even preferred his wife stay blissfully unaware.

I believe we are all sick and tired of hearing about another politician caught in extramarital, or simply bizarre, behavior. However, I believe we all can learn a lesson from this online scandal and late night comedic fodder.


I was speaking to a colleague recently whose second criteria for hiring for a position was the applicant’s online reputation. That is, when he visited their Facebook page or read their blogs did he like what he saw and read? I was reading an article in Bloomberg Businessweek that made a similar point. The pub’s online columnist Jeff Schmitt noted:

Social media is a means to connect and humanize yourself. Treated carelessly, it can destroy your personal brand. Make a tasteless tweet and it’s forever archived by the Library of Congress. Behave like a drunken lout and a video phone will memorialize your shame on YouTube (GOOG).Leave a randy e-mail or Facebook post and it’s certain to reach Bangalore within the hour. The old barriers are gone. Everyone is now a journalist and filmmaker—voyeur and exhibitionist—and has the means to publicize it. While privacy may not be dead, the risk that your Christian Bale moments will be revealed is ever-greater. At work, you dress, speak, and act in ways that ensure people will see you at your best. Technology is no different. It can accentuate your strengths while laying bare your weaknesses.

We couldn’t agree with Jeff more and don’t understand how many more scandals and low moments must be captured digitally for us to learn our lesson. Frankly, public relations professionals are exhausted.

“Big Brother” knows which web page you frequent, how often, from where, can deduce why you visited – and now Grandma can see that you weren’t in fact too ill to come to her birthday party, because the time-stamped photo of you sitting behind third plate at the O’s game is tagged on her Facebook page.

Accountability is always a good thing. Just make sure that you and your business are ready and aren’t caught with your pants down.

Just ask Weiner.

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