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09:18 am: Online honesty

I’m a fan of honesty and openness. It’s simpler and much less stressful to only have to remember a single narrative or persona, no matter who I’m talking to. I also no longer believe in long term online secrecy. Once you post a picture, a letter, or whatever – that’s forever. Putting something online is a public action. It’s a visible statement in the public square – and the internet is our ubiquitous camera.

You should know: This will be entered on your permanent record.

Sites like the wayback machine ensure that more is kept than is lost. I use them for trivial stuff like getting old versions of hardware manuals. It’s also the case that however much you want to delete that old blog post – you probably can’t. I’ll be able to find it. If I can find it, you can bet that a determined lawyer or (heaven forbid) a national interest can probably do it faster.

That’s part of the reason that I have a blog that includes the same name that’s on my driver’s license. It reminds me that there is no such thing as “friends locked” or private posts. If I wanted a private journal, I would use paper and pen – or perhaps a text editor on my laptop. I don’t particularly want a private journal. I find that it focuses my thinking when I write for other people.

"Important issues should be presented in writing. Nothing so sharpens the thought process a writing down one's arguments. Weaknesses overlooked in oral discussion become painfully obvious on the written page." - H. Rickover

Let’s be clear: I’m not one of the Radical Honesty nut jobs. They seem to substitute a tasteless and rude bluntness ‘tactless and rude’ over ‘honest.’ Blurting out every little thought that crossed my mind wouldn’t be some sort of enlightened state. It would be Asperger’s syndrome. “Editing myself,” by falling silent rather than saying “I think you’re ugly,” is not somehow “lying.” Lying is lying.

As more and more of the world is defined as “public,” we’ll have to get used to the idea that more and more of our actions are subject to recording and fact checking. Right now it’s just beginning. Yes, your tweets can get you fired. Yes, your facebook posts can incite revolution.

There is power and wonder down this road – but we’re all going to have to get a bit better at honesty.

Originally published at chris.dwan.org. You can comment here or there.


[User Picture]
Date:February 26th, 2011 05:20 am (UTC)
When I register for any sort of online community, if I ever intend to post there (as opposed to registration-gates for lurking) I register under my real, human-identifiable name. It keeps me honest, it keeps me from saying something online that I wouldn't say in person because, as you rightly point out, I can't take it back.

I like to think of it as doing my part to civilize the internet.
[User Picture]
Date:February 26th, 2011 07:56 am (UTC)
I also use my Real Name (TM), obviously, for (almost) all my online interactions. I recognize, however, that this is a luxury I have because no one is stalking me, my government has no reason to think that I'm trying to act in a way that it doesn't like, and my views are not the kind that bother either my employer or my neighbors.

That is to say, I have nothing to fear for myself. But I know people for whom that is not the case, and I don't begrudge them their pseudonymity.
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