Will a haunting teenage past recorded on social media damage your personal PR?

Will a haunting teenage past recorded on social media damage your personal PR?

Claire Walker

Claire Walker

I went to an old school reunion last week. We were regaling the mischief we got up to and one of my friends admitted (30 years after the event) that at a particular house party, his father got the kegs muddled and instead of letting us kids drink the watered down mead, we got stuck into the adult’s keg that had ‘substances’ added in for some extra punch. No wonder my memories of that party are hazy (it was the late 70s!).

How thankful I am to have survived the party with no photo evidence stored for posterity on social media. We took silly photos, regretted it the next day and thankfully shredded the negatives (didn’t we?). Surely I’m not alone in having cringing recollections of my teenage years, and some memories are better kept that way – unrecorded and perhaps forgotten.

How is it for kids nowadays? Despite knowing how to set up their privacy rules properly, my kids’ reputations are at the mercy of their (700?) close Facebook friends! Are our kids going to be constantly drawn back to their pasts with a record of all their teenage escapades on social media? Will they find it harder to forget their foolish moments, their dumber-than-dumb comments or to lose the silly nicknames they earned at school (fruitbat/smellie/poo-face/lucy-lastic/stinker/contrarymary/dopey/droopy). For many people, there comes a time when you need to break with your childhood or teenage past either temporarily or indefinitely to make a go of a new relationship, to fuel a career or to initiate some sort of reinvention of yourself as a sensible adult.

Will society become more tolerant of youthful misdemeanours? Will our kids’ job applications get overlooked because rightly or wrongly they’ve been made a scapegoat on Facebook or because they were a member of a dubious political party when 19 years old? Will our kids resort to taking on new identities with a clean Facebook record in order to get a job?

Tolerance gets my vote. I hope a colourful life history in photo, video and commentary, all perfectly preserved on the internet, shows spirit and character and hopefully an occasional depth of thought, as well as the occasional depth of debauchery.

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  1. Interesting posting. Going beyond teenage “misdemeanours”, it highlights the broader issue of building an appropriate personal brand online. It’s not to say that you can’t mix business and pleasure – clients and customers like doing business with interesting people who have a life! But you do need to be aware that anything you do online becomes part of the reputation your project when people (employers, clients, customers, colleagues, journalists) search for your name. Act accordingly!

    Jonathan Hemus

  2. Perhaps a brave new social media company will offer us expiration dates on all digital content.

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