Thursday, March 31, 2011

“This Will Go On Your Permanent Record!”

There used to be a time when school teachers, and/or school principals, would toss out the threat about what would accumulatively be lurking inside the hidden documents that culminate in your life.

Many would cower in fear if that instructive mantra was vocalized in their direction, usually with an accusatory finger wag for good measure, to get them to toe whatever line the educational overlords were trying to drive home.

In an era that predated computers and hard drives, you envisioned some large monolithic government building somewhere, teeming with reams of paper in file cabinets devoted to every transgression you ever committed or even thought of.

You probably didn’t give that file a second thought after a threat was levelled, until some point later when you went out into the job market for the first time. Perhaps you were filling out an application for a part-time job handing out flyers in a chicken suit outside “Bob’s Bucket O’ Beaks” when it hits you that maybe the day, back in the third grade, when you gave Eddie Terwilliger a pink belly during recess, might finally come back to haunt you and crush your dreams of wearing a giant foam head.

Or your thoughts of getting into the prestigious college that your parents have bankrupted themselves to cover your tuition costs, have been dashed because, contrary to what your classmates said in Grade 5, Mrs. Johnson didn’t like your rendition of Stars & Stripes Forever played in underarm farts.

It’s just amazing how the line, this will go on your permanent record, had such a controlling effect on large portions of the youthfully naive population. Those were simpler times. However, in today’s information age, even with the capability of collecting massive amounts of data on just about everybody who ever roamed the earth, that line has become somewhat of a quaint idle threat. That’s because today’s youth are creating their own permanent record far more damaging than any of their teachers could have ever possibly dreamed up.

Today’s permanent record consists of Twitter tweets, Facebook status updates, sexting, and YouTube uploads that leave a permanent trail of stuff that you might have thought was either terribly amusing or pithy at the time that it was placed. You may have even forgotten about them and moved on with your life. But now every potential employer, insurance company or financial institution has the opportunity to “go to the cloud” and find out everything you’ve done since you first figured out how to type.

And it’s not just the trail of what people say about themselves. It’s also the way people talk online about, and to others. Read many of the comments to newspaper articles, blogs, videos, political websites or any other forum where one can spew, and you will usually find a diatribe of unhealthy discourse that, sadly, many of the authors are under the misguided theory that none of their words can be traced back to them. The pen is mightier than the sword, but a pen can only do a small percentage of the damage that a keyboard can.

The term “social network” is bandied about so often today. Used correctly it is truly a marvellous thing. However, as the online community continues to grow and spread around the world, I’m finding that there is way too much “network” and far too little “social.” It seems that a large percentage of the population might end up with a very unflattering permanent record.

That’s the Stuph – the way I see it


  1. As long as you realize this post is going on your permanent record Mr. Holder.

  2. Peter
    I agree with you except for this.
    In the future a politician, captain of industry or mover and shaker will have a certain amount of societal acceptance of what may be considered aberrant behaviour today.
    Case in point. If JFK had admitted to pot use but said "I didn't inhale!" during the 1960 election campaign, the world would be an entirely different place today. Nixon would have won in a landslide, the Cuban Missile Crisis would have probably had a different conclusion and .... who knows?
    A generation later, Bill Clinton laughingly admitted he did not inhale and he was elected president.
    So, twenty years from now, some would be politician will be asked about the Facebook picture of him/her praying to the porcelain god after a college booze fest and will be able to shrug it off saying, "I was young. Weren't you young once?"

  3. Great blog, Peter! It seems people confuse anonymity or "friends" for security. I've found my Facebook postings on all kinds of blogs! Thx goodness I don't post anything rude or embarassing.

  4. I think you misread this in a big way. If somebody shows personality on the internet that's a good thing. The world is already too full of straitlaced corporate suckups. As long as you're not doing something sickening like supporting Nazis or pedophiles, you should not be scared of expressing yourself. When everybody does it, it'll be no big deal. For example the coach of the New York Jets was involved in a thing where his wife was in porno foot fetish movies and he simply didn't comment on whether he was involved in it. And nothing bad came to him. So let's all loosen up and stop living in fear like this post suggests we do.

  5. Anonymous, while I agree with your comments to a point, don't make the Jet's situation out to be something more than it was. It wasn't porn. It was a YouTube video allegedly done by Rex Ryan and his wife that showed nothing explicit.

    It would have been an completely different situation if the voice on the tape was his but the foot wasn't his wife's. And in any case, he already has a job and this isn't a situation where it will lose him one.

    I was talking more about young people coming into the business world that, let's face it, is still controlled by older, pre-social network stuffier types.

    Peter Anthony Holder

  6. I so agree with what you think which makes me beg the question -

    Are more BAD things happening in the world? I had the privilege of doing a radio show this morning for the station that was my first media job during college breaks. WILD!

    One of the topics that came up was all the BAD THINGS on the planet. One interesting thing, I believe, to consider, when we talk about 'all of these bad things' is that we now have a technology that is instantaneous and allows us to see in real time what is happening.

    Information didn't travel like this before. So we didn't know there were earthquakes on the other side of the planet or tribal wars. This information took time to spread which became part of our folklore and mythology.

    That said, with the technology, time feels fast and processing all of the information can be overwhelming.

    Wars, earthquakes, fish and birds dying in mass extinctions, celebrities imploding in real time on television - my parting words on the radio show with the work we do at TVGuestpert was practicing mindfulness in creating our brands and delivering our messages because in these days - it's very difficult to take back anything that we put out there electronically.

    Jacquie Jordan Jordan Inc.
    Jacquie Jordan Inc. Publishing

  7. HA! Nice article....this should be easy to comment on: "Stupid IS, what stupid DOES".

    But the worst is when I see these people (mostly and sadly Americans) go on CNN and cry about Facebook's privacy rules...ummm HELLOOO, YOU PUT THAT INFO THERE YOURSELF DUMBA##$@...I'm sure Facebook didn't "secretly" collect all that info about you; its a PUBLIC PROFILE, duhhh!!! Its one thing to be academicaly uneducated, but another thing not to have ANY COMMON SENSE!!! lol

    And YES, there are definetly better more important things to talk about in the media today, than the latest "tweet" on why Justin Bieber has his own "NAIL POLISH" product...WOW! (figure that one out, hmmm)

  8. Got a story. I needed my high school principal's signature to get into a university's Faculty of Education. I go to his office. I ask for his signature. He pulls out my Kardex with my grades and comments from teachers. He says, "I hear you challenge authority and can be adament about your position?"

    I sez: "Yes."

    I get into university.

    Personal records. Good I got the opportunity to learn what my "adults" thought of me.

    I am still challenging authority. Most people would just like to accept authority.