Surviving Online Shame

Filed as Guides on February 27, 2009 10:03 am

As we know the internet has a long memory. We also know that bad news travels fast, and embarrassing news travels even faster. There is a really dangerous aspect to the internet when both these factors combine to form a perfect storm of shame.

We are only human so inevitably will goof at some point. How can we avoid the worst?

From indiscretions being recorded on Facebook and Flickr, to attack blog posts, to video of us acting or karaoke, there are an infinite way that our stumbles can be caught, recorded, disseminated and dissected online. These powerful tools can be used for good or for evil, and some people prefer to knock and criricize rather than build and create. Every couple of months someone will bring an example to me and ask what we can do to solve it.

Sometimes it is just a case of waiting for it to blow over. While the internet has a long memory, accessing these memories is not always easy or obvious unless you know exactly what you are looking for. On other occasions bigger measures need to be taken.

As just mentioned, we are human therefore fallible. The first thing we all need to remember is this fact. Indeed, I go as far as reminding people. If you are the first person to call attention to your goofs, gaffs and blunders then some of the sting is removed when other people point them out about you or try to use them against you.

When what we have done affects others we need to apologize and own up as swiftly as possible also, because if you do not then someone might thing you are trying to hide (which might well be, but out of shame not guilt). Due to my upbringing I normally have no problem apologizing instinctively – I have pre-emptive guilt ;)

For example only yesterday I unintentionally interrupted Chris Brogan’s talk at a convention so texted him to apologize, thus interrupting him a second time – d’oh!

If something is ranking in the search engines that you would rather not appear for your name, some times you can request for the offending content to be removed, but more likely you will need to create your own content themed around your name to drive it down the search results. Create a YouTube video, blog, squidoo lens, social media profiles, and link them all together.

Lastly, remember that most of the people who will look and laugh are just random folks off the internets, not people who know you personally. And if they do know you, then they will give you the benefit of the doubt because, being a Blog Herald reader, you are obviously attractive, intelligent and know how to rock :)

Any more tips for surviving internet shame? Please share in the comments …

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  1. By Jay posted on February 27, 2009 at 10:55 am
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    Good post, Chris, and one that deserves some consideration. Of course, there are one-time foibles, and there are the repeat offenders (author of article excluded :-). I would think an indiscretion is forgivable, but someone who continues down that path may not be able to repair such damage.

    It’s about being aware of your Internet surroundings and having a good time, but not losing control. Not too different from the real world, I’d say.

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  2. By Chris Brogan... posted on February 28, 2009 at 9:28 pm
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    You’re so funny. You know that I was teasing you, right? The folks in the room got a big kick out of it, and I was just happy to see you.

    If Flickr didn’t spit the dummy, my only 2 pics of you from the event are up. : )

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  3. By Chris Garrett posted on March 1, 2009 at 4:30 am
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    @Jay – Good point, if it becomes a habit then perhaps the problems are deeper :)

    @Chris – Thanks for being so understanding, and glad you got home safe so you could finally get some rest :)

    Reply

  4. By Lorelle VanFossen posted on March 1, 2009 at 8:30 am
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    You’ve made a good point, Chris – and Chris – but here’s a really important one. Much of the embarrassment we get from things we put online (which we thought were a good idea when initiated) or do in “public” are shameful because we think they are. The other parties might not even care, notice, or laugh it off. We make stuff up in our heads with entire conversations and life stories that have nothing to do with the moment of shame – and we make it worse by feeling embarrassed or “caught out right” which is dumb.

    The awesome thing about the Internet is that there is a moment before you hit the Publish button, be it blog, email, YouTube, flickr, Twitter, etc., that you should think before you click. The problem is that people don’t take advantage of that moment enough. Maybe all computers and cells should come with a warning from the Internet attorney general that says:

    “Think before thy click. Clicking could be harmful to your health.”

    As for foot-in-mouth disease, for some it’s terminal. :D

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  5. By Chris Garrett posted on March 1, 2009 at 9:08 am
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    @Lorelle – Nuggets of wisdom as always, thanks! Yeah the impulsive acts are often the ones that catch us out, and often things are worse in our imagination than in reality. Thankfully! :)

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  6. By Tuesday posted on March 2, 2009 at 7:01 am
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    Hi Chris! I think if Paris Hilton can go on with her life, we all can too. LOL. We just need to follow it up with good PR. Everyone makes mistakes and I don’t think anyone can be spared of an embarrasing moment or two. At least it makes for a great anecdote someday…

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