Watch What You Post Online – It Just Might Haunt You Forever

Efficient communication is perhaps the main advantage provided by the internet. However, because of the lack of regulations that in turn owe to the fact that regulating the internet itself is complicated beyond anyone’s imagination, public discussions leave indelible marks on the cloud and person-to-person conversations that were intended to stay private can be viewed by anybody who has the right resources to do so at their disposal.

In keeping with the notions that loose lips sink ships and that people who live in glass houses should wear clothes and not throw stones, the ramifications of indiscreet web postings can indeed be costly. A server at a restaurant set up a forum on MySpace dedicated to venting about woes on the job, open only to his past and present co-workers. Before long, the message boards became jammed with threats of violence, references to drug use and lewd comments about coworkers and customers alike.  Shortly after that, the management caught wind of the discussions, and the waiter in question, identified as the forum moderator, was fired, on account of the fact that the forum posed many threats to the reputation and livelihood of the restaurant. He later successfully sued his former employer, citing invasion of privacy and violation of the Stored Communications Act, under which communication on websites is protected.

Adolescence is certainly a challenging and often scary time for everybody. As hormones play up, emotions run high, and sometimes this can interfere with critical thinking, especially foresight. As a result, the advents of both the internet and social networking have brought with them a rash of brazen and reckless screeds posted on comment threads by troubled teenagers. A high school freshman in Minnesota was expelled and subsequently enrolled in an alternative education program after posting a “hit list” on his Facebook wall targeting thirty students, alumni, administration and faculty. Another student found himself in trouble after posting that he had looked up his teacher’s dress while disguising his motives by dropping his pen. The teacher, who was on his Facebook friends list, saw the status and notified him of his suspension on the same comment thread. A Florida teen was expelled after posting a murderous threat to Kathy Bowen, his English teacher on Facebook. Shortly after the incident, Bowen retired, owing to the physical and psychological toll taken on her by the incident and the ripple effects following it.

It is doubtless that information we release on the internet has a particularly high chance of remaining there permanently, particularly since this information can easily be archived and reposted. For example, even though the attorneys for celebrities like Jennifer Aniston and Vanessa Hudgens have tried to suppress the nude photos of these stars with cease-and-desist orders, they still continue to resurface. Another point of fact is that when inflammatory and/or incriminating information is posted online, there is no telling how astonishing the consequences may be.

In early 2012, Tommy Jordan, an IT worker and gun hobbyist from Abemarle, North Carolina logged into Facebook to upload pictures to the account he had set up for his dog. On said account’s Facebook wall, he discovered a rant from his fifteen-year-old daughter Hannah directed at both him and his wife, even though he and his wife were initially blocked from seeing it. In the message, the main point of contention was Hannah’s resentment in regard to being expected to lend a hand with household chores. Although Hannah did make some valid points – particularly expressing feeling overextended by the combined strain of the demands put upon her between her homelife and school – these sentiments were lost in the tone of the letter she wrote to her parents, which contained insolent admonitions for her parents to “get their own damn coffee” and that she was “not their slave” and “tired of cleaning up their s—,” and a heartless remark that she “would not be around when they got old and could no longer take care of themselves.”

On February 7, 2012, Tommy Jordan recorded a video response in which he read the letter in question, and, speaking directly to his daughter on camera, addressed her main points, all the while completely awash in righteous disappointment as he made his counter-argument. Along the way, he mentioned that Hannah had been punished for similar indiscretions involving Facebook, resulting in the confiscation of her computer, and recalled that he had previously said that the last time such a thing would happen, he would put a bullet through her laptop. He then pointed the camera at her laptop, which was lying on the ground in the Jordan’s yard, unholstered his automatic and rendered the laptop irreparably useless with nine well-aimed .45 caliber exploding hollow-point ACP rounds. The video was subsequently posted on Hannah’s Facebook page, and almost instantly received millions upon millions of views.

Jordan received praise from parents and kids alike for his gesture, but child psychologists deemed his actions to be “over-the-top” and “abusive.” Dr. Phil McGraw declared on record that Jordan’s actions were “not good judgement,” that he should have been the “adult… the calm in the middle of the storm” and that it was not his job to “get revenge.”

Jordan also was visited by police and child protective services, owing to the numerous calls that these agencies received from concerned individuals who had seen the video. Naturally, no charges were filed, because no laws had been broken. Since then, Jordan and his daughter have been working toward reconciliation, and although Jordan has realized that because of the attention his gesture received that “the punishment accidentally outweighed the crime,” he still stands behind his actions, believing that after previously having warned Hannah that he would shoot her laptop for similar misbehavior, he had no choice but to be consistent with his threat. “I was stuck by my words,” muses Jordan, who also remarked, “Never again in my entire life will I ever do anything that garnishes (sic) this much attention, both positive and negative.

Indeed, online communications are easily intercepted and just as easily retransmitted. Therefore, people need to watch what they post and where they post it. Because websites can be archived, insensitive comments and unsavory pictures can easily and permanently affect a person’s life, especially in academic and professional arenas. Therefore, it is not a particularly prudent idea to send friend requests to bosses and teachers through social networking sites. However, people who do decide to do such a thing should refrain from posts that are R- or X-rated, politically incorrect, sexually explicit, inflammatory, harassing, threatening or otherwise incriminating. It is also quite necessary and commonsensical to avoid using company-issued computers and mobile phones to post messages of such a nature. On the cloud, once you s— where you eat, you will never be able to completely eradicate the smell.

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