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You Can’t Take It Back

This past week, the Globe and Mail ran a story called, “Don’t I Know You . . . What Happens When the Star Wars Kid Grows Up?”. The Star Wars Kid, in case you didn’t already know, is a person by the name of Ghyslain Raza. Mr. Raza made Youtube history by being the unwitting star of one of the most viral videos of all time.

What some of you may not know is that Mr. Raza never intended that video clip to end up on Youtube. What you also may not know is that after it was put on Youtube, some people who felt sorry for him decided to jazz up the video by adding the audio and light sabre effects. The outcome is one of the most unusual examples of group embellishment that has occurred in the virtual world.

Mr. Raza made headlines in Quebec this week because, now an adult, he was appointedthe new president of the Patrimoine Trois-Rivières conservation society. Imagine that. Photos of him, looking grown-up and more polished, appeared with the article. Readers of the article might not have made the connection if the words “Star Wars Kid” hadn’t appeared at the bottom of the on-line version of the article in all caps.

Right now, I have a whole whack of friends who are committed to getting off of Facebook. For those who have thought of doing the same, let’s just say it isn’t easy. There is a permanent record of you that doesn’t disappear just because you quit posting things to your page. My friends are getting off of Facebook however because they are very concerned about recent changes to Facebook’s privacy policies.

One of the more humorous side effects I’ve seen from someone trying to get off of Facebook occurred recently. A good friend decided to break the link between his page and his wife’s page (e.g. he no longer listed her name on his info page). After doing so, he thought her absence might suggest in the interim that something had happened to their marriage, so he decided it would be OK if his profile said that he was married. As a result, all of his friends were notified that he was “married”, and some of his good natured friends started posting all sorts of congratulations notes on his home page.

Mr. Raza’s legacy and some recent moves by some credible people I know to get off of Facebook really got me thinking about the risks of being involved with social media when you are in specific professions such as human resources. Like most people I meet in the social media world, I have public and private personas. There are some aspects of these personas that intersect but other aspects that do not. For example, with very few exceptions, unless you knew me before 1990, or we have been personal friends for a long time, chances are that you are not a friend of mine on Facebook. If you are a close personal friend with whom I share experiences such as camping, dinner group, etc., chances are I am not connected to you through LinkedIn. Both of these groups however know that I write this blog every week.

With regards to this blog, generally, I’m guarded about the things that I say, but to encourage readership, I have come to recognize that sometimes you have to push the envelope a little bit to gain interest. This is where I get nervous about the risk of something I’ve said going viral and for whatever reason coming back to haunt me. Man, I hope I never blow it.

It used to be much simpler. You could be forgiven for your youth. For the most part the records were wiped clean. I was reminded of this when I was driving down the road the other day and was listening to the lyrics for “I’m An Adult Now” by the great Toronto band, The Pursuit of Happiness:

“I can’t take any more illicit drugs
I can’t afford any artificial joy
I’d sure look like a fool dead in a ditch somewhere
With a mind full of chemicals
Like some cheese-eating high school boy.”

I guess the lesson in all of this is recognizing the one ultimate truth about operating in social media, simply, whatever you write, you can’t take it back.

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