John Dvorak: To Avoid Embarrassment, Avoid Everything!

Jan 28, 2010 • Culture, web

“The Internet is often eternal,” says PC mag columnist and the host of the weekly podcast CrankyGeeks, John Dvorak. “Once something appears on it, someone will invariably keep a copy of it — or the thing will simply stay online forever. Just as the rest of us are finally forgetting that video of the chubby kid prancing around the room with his light saber, someone will reintroduce it to a whole new generation of viewers. When this kid turns 60, I guarantee that someone will pull out the video at his birthday party.”

Stuff we do online is like a tattoo that never goes away. How can we avoid the possible embarrassment of having to face our digital footprint down the line? Refuse everything that is human interaction via technology! Duh!

Cardinal rules:

  1. Do not sext. “This is probably the dumbest thing you can do,” he says.
  2. Facebook and Myspace. “Facebook is a product you use after agreeing to its terms of service,” Dvorak says. “It’s a well known fact that the guy who runs the site is not interested in your privacy. Never assume that anything you post on the Internet is going to stay private. Nothing is.”
  3. Twitter. “Sounding like an idiot on Twitter with hour-by-hour chatter about your feelings is incredibly revealing,” he says. “Every so often I check in on someone’s tweets, only to discover that the person I just met is a total dingbat.”
  4. Blogging. “I’ve never understood why someone wants to reveal their innermost feelings on a blog,” Dvorak says. “It’s generally not that entertaining. Too often it focuses on someone’s cat. You have to wonder why people present such sad personalities online. Do they even know that they’re doing it?”
  5. Chat Rooms. “It’s also very easy to record a video chat,” he says. “What would an employer think if they got a hold of the video? What would your mom think?”
  6. Flickr. “I constantly use Flickr to do due diligence on people,” he says. “Why not? If someone has hundreds of pictures posted of him or herself, an immediate red flag goes up. Why do you need so many pictures of yourself online? These pictures were usually taken at parties where people end up acting like the Whore of Babylon or an out-and-out drunk.”
  7. YouTube. “While you can indeed remove videos from YouTube, I can assure you that, if you are really making a fool of yourself, someone will capture the stream and repost it,” Dvorak says. “Again, you can expect to see yourself as a dopey 15-year-old on the big screen of every birthday part from 21 to 60. Like the fat kid with the sword, you may forever be defined by that video.”

Information from PC Magazine.

  • Bruce N. Stein

    No, the answer is to create a whole separate identity, duh. Considering that a free Hotmail or Yahoo account will allow you to duplicate the service of nearly every social site you’re on, there’s no excuse other than laziness to venture out too far and get caught.

    Certainly, if you’re going to go all-out with your I’m-afraid-of-the-world activities, so far as to post pictures. or meet up with someone, or create a sex tape, then your persona can be compromised. But this isn’t a fault of the internet, and you’d have this problem WITHOUT the internet. If you just want to join a message board where you can talk about all those things that your friends just wouldn’t understand, by all means do it! Here, I’ll help you:

    If you want to get super-paranoid you can even start using proxies. Heck, you want to be anonymous? The internet can do anonymous. The freaking FBI likely won’t be able to figure out what you’re up to* (*I do not suggest trying to outwit the FBI).

    And don’t worry about Twitter. Twitter is going to be dead in 10 years. Heck, it’s going to be dead in two. The internet wayback machine may keep your posts, but I assure you no one is going to care what you ate for breakfast on November 2nd, 2009 or even if you had a really good lay the next day. Remember that senator who got caught in an airport bathroom trying to solicit sex? Do you remember his name? No? Now imagine you’re 1,000 times less important and ask yourself if anyone is going to remember YOUR name.

    And I can help John Dvorak out with item 4. People blog for the same reason they do anything, because they’re sad and they want attention. I know this because I blog. It’s a method of talking as if someone cares to hear you; it’s empty space anyway so you can’t see people walk away. It’s a place to raise your opinion to the level of ultimate importance. It’s a way to be the star of your own show.

    And there’s nothing wrong with that, we’re social creatures after all. People have fantasies that are far more dangerous than imagining all the comments they’re gonna get when they *totally* ream that new movie or talk about their grandma dying. Hell, someone bitching about their boss is no different than Mr. Dvorak bitching about people bitching about their boss. Oh, but it’s OK because he has more readers, right? He writes for a *magazine* and that makes his inane crap more legitimate. You know the only difference between a magazine and a blog? Blogs aren’t dying.

    I kid, I kid (sort of). And while I agree that the internet is eternal, it’s also very, very, big. There’s an INCREDIBLE amount of noise and the ironic part is the more there is the less each part means. Oh my god, that fat kid may see that video when he’s 60 – as opposed to what? People have had Over the Hill parties showing the birthday person doing stupid stuff long before we had YouTube. And what effect is that going to have on him other than a couple of quick exchanged chuckles? Would *you* give a damn for more than 5 seconds if you met that kid, either now or when he was 60? The world *tried* to make a star out of Andy Milonakis, and it turns out no one really cares.

    And even if you have the occasional slip up you should be fine. Besides, if some future spouse is going to judge you because you cried emo all over the internet when you were 13 then that’s a sign you shouldn’t be with them.

    And that’s an important lesson, too. If you’re so scared of doing something, then double check whether you want to do it. I’m not saying what you want to do is wrong, but shame is a good emotion to reflect upon regardless. It can either prevent you from doing something bad or it can make you confident and more accepting of yourself. If anything, the internet makes it *easier* to indulge in hidden agendas, not harder. Surfing for porn is stupid easy, but go ask any Republican how hard it is to ACTUALLY go to a gay club and not get caught.