Hit ‘return’ to ruin your life

by chabonsby

A teacher friend of mine told me yesterday that upwards of thirty teachers in Lancashire have been disciplined for comments on social media sites, and three have been sacked. That aspect of internet usage has been covered extensively and by now, to be frank, everybody should be aware of the permanent nature of the internet. However, we were all teenagers once, and we all said very stupid things on an at least daily basis, and some of us did so online. And the conversation with my friend reminded me of a very low-level kerfuffle last week involving up and coming leftie Owen Jones, which in turn reminded me of a long-held fear/expectation. A blog uncovered an email written by Jones when he was sixteen, in which he railed against contemporary Stalinists, in a less than polite manner. I shan’t link the blog which did the revealing, because no matter how inevitable such a thing is it is still despicable, but I’ll quote the opening:

You stupid fuck.. You fucking have the nerve to speak like that you retarded moron. There’s some fuckers I don’t take this shit off, and Stalin worshipping brain dead fucks like you are one of them. You’re the type of shit who could have gone either way…fascist or Stalinist…as long as you can make your wank fantasies about pulling people’s guts out come true. You reckon you’re hard core being a Stalinist…why no just become a Marilyn Manson fan you reject shit

It goes on like that for awhile.

Most of what Jones said as an angry sixteen year old is hard to disagree with, and his tone is simply that of the average teenage male, as far as I can remember, but you can imagine there’s much worse out there. For him, for others, and certainly for me. Being a high profile political or cultural commentator is bad enough in terms of making enemies, but imagine the muck-raking the internet-using politicians of this generation are going to face. I’ve thought before that future generations will be completely immune to shame of this sort, because privacy is being voluntarily done away with. We’ll know absolutely everything about politicians long before they get near office, and perhaps that will make for a better understanding of the essential humanity of everyone, even Members of Parliament. Certainly we’re all going to enjoy reading the chatlogs of the 2040s equivalent of Barack Obama. My generation, however, will face the unfortunate combination of (soon to be) old fashioned standards and newfangled technology. The lucky ones who never posted on a web forum or had a Myspace page or even used any kind of webmail in their teens can hope to have a high-profile life in the coming decades without the most basic of online skullduggery causing immense embarrassment. The substantial minority who have offered opinions online from a young age, well, we’re unlikely to be so lucky…