I’m taking inspiration from an unexpected source this week, the former presidential candidate Herman Cain. Cain recently suspended his campaign following the surfacing of allegations of a 13-year affair with a woman who was not his wife. This man was running for president, and these allegations derailed his entire campaign.

This man’s indiscretions from the last 13 years have potentially ended all political aspirations he may have had.  The same could be said for many other celebrities, public figures, or well-known persons.

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Why anyone who spends her or his time in the public eye believes that her or his past, or current, errors in judgment will remain  secret is beyond me.

With the rise of the news media, and social networking, it’s almost incomprehensible that anyone of significance would think not only would the media not report such incidents, but also that the public wouldn’t eat up the idea of a scandal.

While not everyone’s ambition is to be president, a celebrity or even a well known public figure, there is no doubt that personal history has an impact on your future self.  We live in a Facebook generation. Our every thought, emotion, feeling, action and reaction has essentially been recorded on the Internet.

That time we hated our teacher? It’s on there. When we were feeling a little sick? Yup, Facebook knows. Those super depressed statuses posted after a breakup? Oh, they’re there.

If Facebook fails to capture our imagination, Twitter is there to catch what inane thoughts we have about pop culture or our peers, those funny tweets you sent insulting Katy Perry’s musical talent are well documented.

Even if you realize what you have done on Facebook or Twitter and delete these posts, someone, somewhere probably has access too it. Who knows how quickly these things are actually deleted.

That being said, we’ve all heard the warnings about the things we chose to put on the Internet. We’ve all seen the PSAs, we’ve all listened to our teachers, parents, guidance counselors, and everyone else warn us about the dangers of posting things on the internet or sending things to our friends via text message.

When we were younger, The warnings were all about giving out your address and phone number to strangers and not getting kidnapped. Now that we have aged some, we’re reminded that what we share with others “privately” may never stay private, or what we post in the internet will never fully disappear from there. Nothing we ever put on Facebook or anywhere else on the Internet is ever private.

Social networking has made the idea of privacy almost impossible. Even with the strictest of settings, pictures of you can still be posted to Facebook (even if you aren’t tagged in them.)

It may be only your friends who can see your status updates, but if you aren’t careful about who you friend, it may not stay that way.

The newest updates to Facebook make it possible for me to see what other’s have posted on their friends wall, regardless of whether or not I am a friend of this person.  I can even see what their friend’s comments were.  Without constant vigilance with privacy settings, everything you post on Facebook is quite accessible to anyone.

Perhaps it was because I was a student athlete, but since I have come to college I have been excruciatingly stringent about what photos of me end up on Facebook. I’m wary about getting my picture taken when I’m out with friends, at a party, or at a bar.

Even since I’ve turned 21, I’ve been careful about what I post. I am not exactly a heavy drinker or a person who enjoys stereotypical college parties, but there have been times where I have intentionally avoided having my photo taken.

Most of my friends were in the same boat, so we wouldn’t post any pictures of each other.  However, I would have to warn others that I couldn’t appear in photos or be tagged in any photos in an album where there was illegal activities taking place.

My caution over photos comes at a high contrast to some of my friends. For some people I know, the barrage of drunk photos and videos that appear on my news feed on Facebook the afternoon after a busy Thursday or Saturday night are something of a badge of honor. They fawn over photos where they look exceptionally wasted, or discuss what it was they had to drink that night.  They relive their drunken shenanigans through photos. I’ve seen photos of people in the illest-fitting and most revealing clothing possible, or photos with them in sexualized positions. Regardless of privacy settings, is this really something you’d want anyone to see about you?

While that’s all well and good for them, I can’t possibly imagine doing the same.

I’d like my Facebook and twitter to be a fairly professional medium for my social networking. While that’s not always the case, as I’ve had some slip ups, I still will never be quite as open and revealing as some of my counterparts.

I will never describe in detail my horrible drunken decisions in a public way on Facebook or Twitter, I sure won’t post revealing photos of myself, and I definitely won’t be whining about my peers or superiors too often.

Perhaps some of my peers need to learn a thing or two from Herman Cain and his predicament.

Even if you don’t want to live in the public eye, what you’ve done in the past can still haunt you, especially when it comes to social networking.

There is no true privacy on the Internet. Saving a photo, status update, or anything ever placed on the Internet is only a few clicks away.

Next time you think about filling your tagged photos up with hundreds of pictures of you drunk, remember that even if you untag yourself, that photo is still on Facebook.

Even if that photo is taken off Facebook, there are still many people who could view it and save it with one click. Nothing is ever truly gone from the Internet.


Chelsea Mellin can be contacted at cmellin@keene-equinox.com


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