*All opinions expressed in this blog are my own*
I have recently finished reading Jon Ronson’s So You've Been Publicly Shamed, and am consequently quite scared of the internet. Author of
The Men Who Stare at Goats and The Psychopath Test, Ronson’s latest
book on the re-emerging of public shaming as an internet phenomenon examines the power of social media, and people whose reputations have been ruined by misjudged use of it – making it a recommended read for anyone who works in PR. Or anyone who has Twitter. Or anyone who has ever said anything risqué in front of someone who might have access to Twitter. It's relevant to you, read it.
In essence, the book looks at how social media gave ordinary human beings a voice to make change through social pressure, which can be used for good. However, caught up in righteous campaigning, the Twitter-sphere is guilty of publicly shaming individuals, often to an extent disproportionate to their offence. For example, the book looks at the case of the American PR Justice Sacco (who I remembered from my crisis PR training), whose (albeit tasteless), Twitter joke made her the shaming target of hundreds of thousands of tweeters and resulted in her losing her job.
Internet reputation means a lot to everyone, and I’m now very conscious about my internet “profile”. For example, recently I was horrified to find out that my Myspace page STILL EXISTED. I’m not sure what I thought happened to it, I kind of assumed it was condemned to some internet hell with my Bebo account. BUT NO, 15 year old Aidan lived on in a corner of the internet and his opinions and pictures represented me. It was a living nightmare. Don’t bother Googling, I deleted it.
It made me think of what will happen in a generation or so time, when virtually everyone will have an internet history; every company, politician or celebrity will have an easily accessible past. The press has a field day when they find out a politician had a consensual relationships before marriage, so imagine what they'll do with a politician’s entire Facebook relationship history, or, God forbid, pictures of a teenage Magaluf holiday circa 2012.
The same applies to companies, what an organisation posts on the internet today will still exist in twenty years’ time and it will be held accountable for it. Thus, the necessity for good PR is more important than ever before. I’m now conscious that this blog has been a bit doom and gloom, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing – PR is often about building a reputation and if you can create a great online profile over a long period of time you’re on to a winner.
Just tread lightly. I will be.