Probably like many folks out there, I am of two minds about the whole “lasting repercussions from doing stupid stuff and stupidly putting it on your stupid social media profile” issue.
On the one hand, yes, if you choose to share evidence of your virtuosity in simultaneously doing a keg stand and using a gravity bong with the world, you can’t be surprised if the incriminating photo or statement comes back to haunt you when you’re applying to schools or looking for a job.
On the other hand, when did everyone get so damn uptight about everything? As if you, Mr. College Admissions Officer or Ms. Human Resources Manager, have never been drunk in your life? Have never exercised bad judgment? Have never committed a youthful indiscretion? Have never, in fact, been young?
The fact is that people change: many of us do stupid stuff when we’re young, and then we stop doing stupid stuff when we’re older – or at least we do different stupid stuff, and (most importantly) we don’t tell the world about it. If anything teens and young adults are probably just guilty of being honest, while older adults – which I’ll define here as everyone 25 and up – are more “mature” because we realize the value of being consistent in our hypocrisy. Yay for us.
Which brings me to an interesting decision by the U.S. military: the Pentagon is considering changing its recruiting policy to, in effect, wipe the slate clean for recruits who have shared content showing them engaging in behavior that would normally bar them from service, including things like drug use and other relatively minor violations of the law.
According to a report in the Washington Times, Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a conference that “[I] worry a bit about … the young men and women that are now in their early teens who probably underestimate the impact of their persona in social media, and what impact that may have later in life on security clearances and promotions and selections.”
Dempsey went on: “We’d build the future all-volunteer force on the basis of getting a ‘second start.’ We’d say to young men and women, ‘You know what? You probably exposed some things in your social media persona… that would disqualify you, actually, from service. But we’re going to give you a shot to start over.’”
Hopefully other schools and employers will consider taking a page from the U.S. military’s book.