Sitting in a radio studio with a client being interviewed, our host pointed to a box on the wall displaying the words “ON AIR”. He explained that when illuminated with its red backlight, whatever we said in the studio would be broadcast to the nation. We continued with light banter until he called out “on air” and, as the sign lit up, we quickly quietened down and the formal interview began.
But the reality is, we are permanently connected – in this switched on world which we inhabit, we are always “ON AIR”. Whatever is posted onto the internet, can live on forever. Once it has been committed to the web, it is public. And even if it is retracted, it remains available. The internet never forgets anything.
Even if you delete your post swiftly, someone is likely to haves captured it and it will live on. Posts can be swiftly copied to services like Storify or Chirpstory meaning that deleting them from your timeline doesn’t necessarily remove them from the internet. And, while anything you delete may not appear on your timeline, the items are cached on Google and picked up by other aggregators such as topsy. Freezepage keeps an accurate image of a webpage at a moment in time – ensuring that as pages changes, they can still be recalled as they were.
The increasingly popular Snapchat (especially among the youth), indicates that the pictures sent this way are deleted within 10 seconds. But don’t be fooled. Although the pictures (snaps) and the chats disappear to view, they remain on the internet and on your android phone, albeit hidden from viewand and on your android phone, albeit hidden from view.and on your android phone, albeit hidden from view.and on your android phone, albeit hidden from view.and on your android phone, albeit hidden from view.and on your android phone, albeit hidden from view.and on your android phone, albeit hidden from view.
And this issue is not limited to the social media. Last year’s Postmates spat highlights this beautifully. Dissatisfied with Postmates’ service, a client wrote a letter of complaint. At some stage in dealing with the complaint, the CEO outlined a resolution to the customer’s issue, ending it with “Someone also please tell her to f*** off.” Unfortunately for Postmates and its CEO, this line was included in the response to the unhappy client.
Closer to home, Primedia may have deleted the controversial clown cartoon, but I bet you have seen it elsewhere. A quick Google search will yield any number of copies of it displayed on the internet.
You don’t even need to post something onto the internet yourself. The power of the smartphone means that anyone within earshot or within a line of sight, can broadcast your words and your actions very swiftly. Just ask Charles Saatchi. And we all know that ended in tears.
Once stated, your words exist. Once posted to the web, an item exists and removing it does not mean it hasn’t existed. No matter how swiftly you delete, no matter how humbly you apologise, the offending item will persist. It’s better not to post it, say it or do it in the first place. Reputation is everything and you shouldn’t take risks with it.
So the bottom line is that you are always “ON AIR”. You can’t escape this and you need to be very aware whenever you post something or say something. It will form a part of your reputation. Forever.
What are your thoughts about the need to watch your words and actions?
From the desk of Gillian Findlay
Economist, data translator, communicator and fascinated by the world around us.