Owning Your Words

I have always appreciated the acronym Y.O.Y.O.W. adopted by the online community at The Well – it stands for You Own Your Own Words. It’s a simple and yet powerful underlying belief that everyone is responsible for what they say especially once it becomes permanent on the Internet – no hiding behind anonymity.


I had the opportunity this Spring to help around 12 young men working on their Computers Merit Badge – and we spent time talking about protecting ourselves in this new age – many kinds of threats – protecting young people and children from predators, viruses, identity theft and a threat that I think has become far more probable these days – a threat that for lack of a better phrase I will call Reputation Loss. – sure a virus could brick your computer but certain issues with what you say with social media and how interlinked everyone is could cost you far more than that – could cost you a career.

By this I explained that they owned what they said on the Internet – whether its Text messages, Tweets on Twitter, Facebook comments, etc – then there is the tangentially related threat of people “borrowing” their cell phone or Facebook account for some pranks that are harmless until they aren’t and its associated back to you – and your reputation is black marked until (or if) it can be cleared up (hard to prove) – these days the simple act of forwarding any sexually explicit pictures in emails received from someone else is considered legally as distribution of pornography – how many good kids these last few years are learning that lesson the hard way.

There were some of those boys who still incorrectly believed that one could simply remove unfavorable/hurtful comments from the Internet, so we explained the concept of search engine spiders that are always snapshotting and archiving web pages and traversing the Internet 24 hours a day and saving copies of each of these pages just as they were at a certain point in time. 

To demonstrate this, I showed them web pages long since gone and yet still findable via Google archives.  I implored them to not post anything to social sites that they would not want a future employer to find.  Many of the boys did not know that historical records of everything posted on social media sites can be gotten legally in certain cases thru subpoenas as long as anyone knows it was once there.

Many people now believe that many kids of this generation and the next will not be able to survive this digital social age with their Reputation intact and some like the CEO of Google Eric Schmidt actually predict that young people will automatically change their name and break ties to their digital past once they reach adulthood – the article on this topic is here. 


So I was nodding my head when I read this article listed below…….

The Google Yourself Challenge – What do you find about yourself that you may not want preserved for all future social interactions whether personal or professional?

Read their post and Do yourself a favor and discuss with any of your friends and relatives using the Internet especially the young adults who cannot fathom how what they post today could possibly bother them in 5 years when they graduate from college.

The excellent graphic below comes from the backgroundcheck.org site


– Brad



About bradosterloo

.NET Software Developer working for Innovative Systems, LLC in Mitchell, SD
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