You know who’ll eventually “clean up the internet”?
It won’t be the government, it certainly won’t be users themselves, it’ll be your boss.
Sooner or later, your future employer will simply say at your job interview: “Please log on to your Facebook/Twitter page” (or whatever site has gained traction at that time).
And then god help you if you’re ranting about “whores”, “abos” or “towel-heads” and have pictures of yourself with flaming toilet paper stuck up your bum …
The managing director of a major online communications company says the first thing she does when vetting potential employees is to Google them.
“I track down their Facebook page and if they’re stupid enough to have it set to public, I check the pictures, read the comments and within five minutes I’ve got an idea who I’m dealing with.
“I can’t tell you how many applications I’ve passed on because of things they’ve said on Twitter or photos posted on Facebook. I understand people have opinions and a social life, but if they lack discretion there, it will surely translate to the workplace,” she said.
Someone old and wise once wrote “what other people think about you is none of your business” and though it’s a worthy sentiment, I’m certain the author didn’t live in the internet age.
If you think your boss or a racial group is unappealing, it really is none of their business if you keep that opinion within the confines of your head, what writer David Foster Wallace once described as our “skull-sized kingdoms”.
However, if you shout that same opinion at a work Christmas party, it does become your boss’s business. If you scream racist sentiments at a protest march, it can become a police matter.
This is why most people stay silent – while sober – because we don’t want to be punched, berated, jailed, fired or socially isolated for airing assumptions, prejudices, jealousies or disdain for others.
It’s how life works; it’s called being held accountable for your opinions.
This is exactly what happened last month to Gold Coast man Jason Dowling when he lost his job on the Hinze Dam Project managed by Thiess Pty Ltd, after admitting to posting offensive remarks on Facebook.
Following a tip-off by a member of the public, it was revealed Dowling had made hateful comments directed at Aboriginal people, Muslims, refugees and women as well as derogatory statements about co-workers.
Dowling’s handiwork came to light, in part, because of the website: theantibogan.wordpress.com, where Aussie internet users’ comments on sites such as Facebook are being captured via screenshots and displayed forever after.
You’ve got to visit the anti-bogan site to believe some of the racist vileness that springs forth from our countrymen, up to five of whom have now lost their jobs after being showcased.
Founder Michael, who asked not to be further identified because of the many threats he’s already received, told me: “It was never our intention to make people lose their livelihoods, we do not contact employers. The anti-bogan doesn’t serve as police, we’re not vigilantes, we just highlight what’s being said.
“People have the right to keep their private and work lives separate. Having said that, the vast majority of the screenshots we collect are of hateful comments on public Facebook group and fan pages,” he said.
Bizarrely, when the perpetrators are featured on the anti-bogan site, many pull out the “I was just talking to friends line” confusing a chat with a mate and screaming abuse in front of 50, 100 up to thousands of people.
What these idiots are learning is that, contrary to what many pundits have claimed, the internet has not meant the death of the written word, it’s made it more powerful, creating an enduring social artefact of our sometimes silliest moments and musings.
As US sports columnist Bill Simmons has written: “In 15 years, writing has gone from ‘reflecting on what happened and putting together some coherent thoughts’ to ‘reflecting on what happened as quickly as possible’ to ‘reflecting on what’s happening as it’s happening’ to ‘here are my half-baked thoughts about absolutely anything’.”
And while many in authority are worried about the implications of this, particularly when it comes to defamation, a list of people as diverse as Stephanie Rice, Catherine Deveny, Shane Warne, Spida Everitt and Jason Dowling have found that if you’re not careful, you might end up defaming yourself.