Bruce Schneier’s essay on the fading future of ephemeral conversation is thought-provoking:
This has changed. We chat in e-mail, over SMS and IM, and on social networking websites like Facebook, MySpace, and LiveJournal. We blog and we Twitter. These conversations — with friends, lovers, colleagues, members of our cabinet — are not ephemeral; they leave their own electronic trails.
We know this intellectually, but we haven’t truly internalized it. We type on, engrossed in conversation, forgetting we’re being recorded and those recordings might come back to haunt us later.
I don’t think this is right. Some people haven’t internalized it, but many have. This is, in part, what I was getting at in my levels of candor post.
There are a huge number of things I would never say about a coworker in email. There’s a large number I wouldn’t say over instant messenger. The same goes for texting and voice mail. Some things are only worth saying on the phone or even face to face. I’ve been online in some fashion for over two decades, and I’m a fairly private person to start with, so I am very careful about not saying things that are going to turn up later.
Indeed, these days posting words, photos, and videos online is sort of like getting tattoos. Think ahead, because they’re going to be around forever whether you want them or not.
What I wonder, though, is whether we’re going to see some kind of crest in terms of how harshly people are punished for their previous online behavior. When there are embarrassing photos of everyone online, then by definition their existence will no longer be sensational.