Sarah Jeong, a respected tech journalist, made a big negative splash online with her tweets about white people, police, and Battlestar Galactica. Laura Lee, a YouTube beauty vlogger, lost her audience, her sponsors, and distribution of her make up line with racist tweets and an unconvincing apology for them. Sonny Gray and a group of other Major League Baseball players were sent for sensitivity training.
The consequences vary, but for these individuals and many more who haven’t made the headlines, the lesson is simple: what you post online today can come back to bite you in the future.
How do people find these historical posts?
In many cases, people toss out a tweet before they become famous. At that point, they don’t really care who sees their thoughts. Personally, I don’t believe that people who are not racist make casual racist comments, but that’s just me. The comments currently turning into scandals are probably just about the same for the people who made them as those remarks complaining about their bosses, coworkers, and family members.
There may be no response and no consequences… until the individual becomes well enough known to show up on someone’s radar. Once somebody starts looking, it’s easy to find the unwise posts.
You can find old blog posts, news reports, and other website content at the WayBack Machine.
Look for anyone’s old tweets at the Twime Machine. You can search for specific words, too, which could make it easy to look for particular topics. If you’ve changed your mind about a controversy, a curious visitor could easily find that out.
You may also find that you’ve been quoted by someone, perhaps with a screenshot of your old tweet. I’ve written quite a few articles featuring a tweet some public person quickly took down.
How to avoid the problem
“You’ve got to sing like you don’t need the money
Love like you’ll never get hurt
You’ve got to dance like nobody’s watchin’…”
And tweet, email, and post like you have the legal department checking everything you say.
If there are incautious tweets in your past, delete them. Same for emails, blog posts, and articles. A determined searcher may still find them, but it will be more difficult.
A good company social media policy doesn’t hurt, either.