Electric communication will never be a substitute for the face of someone who with their soul encourages another person to be brave and true.
Before spending time on the intricate elements of social interaction, I have to discuss one of the most dangerous and delicate elements a Gentleman has to handle, his digital presence. The only thing more dangerous than to think you understand the Digital World is thinking you understand women.
Unlike the real world, where your voice and actions endure in memory alone, where slips in logic are perpetuated only in stories told among friends or enemies, the digital landscape is instantaneous, contagious, and dangerously permanent. That text you sent your ex after a night of drinking your woes, will resurface when discussing a restraining order. That naked picture you took with your college friends will pop up in HR’s background check 5 years down the road. Those hate emails you sent will be used against you in your divorce hearings.
We really need to re-evaluate our behavior, online and via text. The physical world offers a simple filter, the threat of being smacked. Unfortunately, this is not an evident or immediate reaction to offensive posts or texts. Lately the reality of ill thought out messaging has lead several criminal cases of Cyber-bullying, distribution of pornography and child pornography (anyone under 18 years), and even terrorists threats. In all of those cases, the person at fault nether thought that a thoughtless comment or a forwarded image would ruin their lives permanently, but it did.
With that in mind, there are a couple filters that can prepare you to avoid leaving and undesirable digital footprint. What is a digital footprint? EVIDENCE!
1. What would your mother think?
The older and more independent I grew, the less I would let my mother find out the less “presentable” aspects of my social life, specially my college years.
Between my associates and weekend accomplices we had a cardinal rule: “You can mention the sin but never the sinner.” We had a sacred bond, a brotherhood, sealed with secrets and embarrassing stories of each other. No camera, not text, no traceable GPS, and no evidence of what we did, just blurry memories that got exaggerated with each retelling. Posting or Uploading was an offense as grave as hitting on your Compadre’s sister.
So what was our filter?
What would my (mother / wife / girlfriend / daughter / son / boss / Human Resources Department) think?
What the private (email / post / PM / tweet) if found by the other person’s (mother / father / wife / husband / girlfriend /boyfriend / daughter / son / boss / Human Resources Department) found it?
I don’t care how carefully crafted your security settings are; someone somewhere will hit forward on the wrong post or some IT person will decide it’s a perfect time to change privacy settings on the system. How will that moral high bar react? Will your mother feel ashamed of the morals she taught you? Will your daughter see how you really treat women? Will Human Resources call you to discuss your future permanent vacation? Will you be hunted down by a pissed off husband? Will your wife file for divorce or separation? Think before you post.
2. The Scorned woman effect.
I want you to sit down and understand this truth, for it is true. NOTHING IS FOREVER. I am not saying that everything goes bad, just that they evolve. Friendships turn to relationships, kids grow up, employment changes by promotions. You also have relationships turning into bad brake-ups and friends offended enough to turn into enemies.
Just how much damaging, post-able information does this person have? Remember that sexy vid you made with your former lover? That was never posted, till now. Remember those emails you sent your compadre, where you expressed your deepest fears and insecurities? Cervantes said it best with “A person dishonored is worse than dead”. If you ever think that someone will not use that information against you, you have never felt betrayal.
I am not saying you should never open up to people. I am just saying that unless you plan to write up your memoires at some point in your future, stuff like that is best said in person or on an actual phone call, so it will only become Hear-Say.
3. Skeletons in your closet should never learn to dance.
Notice how all sycophants keep journals of their atrocities? Notice how all of these journals tend to end up as evidence against them in a court of law? You would think that they would be smart enough to not keep a record of the things that would come back to bite them in the ass.
Now, think of all the stuff you have stored in your computer, your smart phone, your data cloud. Without even getting into the risk of having a hacker go through them, what would happen if these items fell into the wrong hands, like a pissed off significant other?
4. Troll Fishing.
Thinking that they are shielded from direct retribution, people tend to show their darker side online. We have seen time and time again the racist remarks just because a Latino sang the national anthem. We have seen the ignorant comments on immigration. I know how the anger, the need to reach across the screen and choke that bigot, the need to go all CAPS LOCK on them.
Truth be told here, do you think they care? Do you think your profound elocution will get them to change their mind? If they did not research the topic before posting, do you think they will now? By replying, what you actually are doing is giving these comments pertinence and a longer lifespan in the ether.
A clarification reply is perfectly acceptable, but other than venting out and getting even more enraged does nothing. They comments speak volumes of them, your reply says little of yourself.
5. Who gives a ...
Most online comments are simply people looking for attention from strangers they will never meet. They are looking for sympathy, or justification to their own thought process. They are preaching to the choir.
Would you even care if this were in the real world? These are the people you would probably avoid eye contact if they came up to you, or simply tell them to grow up.
The digital age gave us an illusion of anonymity; where we would take risks we would never have in the real world. Truth is, this new virtual landscape is actually more permanent and dangerous, and so at no moment can you carelessly stop being a Gentleman. If you are a Gentleman in the real world, you have to be a Gentleman in the virtual one too.