Rewind to my middle school and high school years. We had Xanga and Myspace and LiveJournal and Photobucket and DeviantArt. Most sites didn't take privacy seriously yet, and options for making a page private were sparse. Digital cameras were just starting to become affordable. The adults weren't on social media yet — hell, even most of our friends weren't, aside from us early-adopters — and we had no wise people telling us, "Hey! Be careful! Everything you put on the web will be there forever! It could ruin your career!" My graduating class was in the weird spot. People slightly older than us didn't have access to devices and social sites, but people younger than us have more sensibility about it because their moms, dads and teachers are all on Facebook. We were the first group of 13-year-olds to be exposed to it so vulnerably. My group was the in-betweeners of social media practices. (By "my group" I specifically mean the people who graduated about the same year as I did... not people who are generally in my age range.)
Every teenager has stupid moments. Teenagers act weird and say dramatic things about life and "love." Every teenager in the history of ever has done it. We just happened to be the ones who documented it and made it searchable. And the worst part? We did it under usernames and email addresses like "firstname.lastname@example.org." Accounts that have long expired, meaning signing into these old sites to delete our childhood crap is hard, if not impossible.
Why I'm writing about this? An old friend's employer found one of my old blogs. One that I have zero recollection of ever creating. My first and last name are nowhere on it, so doing a Google search of myself never returned it (I would have delete it long ago if I had). As a teenager I was making new profiles on every site imaginable. And yeah, I posted some photos that teenagers would take. No alcohol or drugs or nudity. Nothing incriminating, just embarrassing clothing and faces and poses and captions. Is it fair for employers to go around collecting this stuff? It feels like them snooping around our parents' houses, reading our old journals and looking through shoeboxes under our childhood beds for photos.
Yeah, maybe we should have thought ahead. Maybe we should have predicted that social media would blow up and everything would be indexed and searchable and come back to bite us in the ass. What I wise 13-year-old I would have been if I had that foresight.