Hacking Your Own Identity
We’re all guilty of it, from time to time, trading in rumors, snark and jokes at the expense of others, especially when we think no one’s watching. The fact is, like in Terry Benedict’s casino in Ocean’s 11, on the internet, there’s always someone watching.
Recently, Sony’s Scott Rudin and Amy Pascal found this out firsthand during the massive hack of Sony Pictures, as several of the communications they thought would remain between them went public in a major way, along with thousands of other leaked internal documents. Snarking about colleagues is nothing new; we’ve all been on this e-mail chains with people trying to out joke each other as they poke and prod at the people in power. But in Rudin & Pascal’s case, one of those people in power was the President, and the content was “racially tinged,” as the New York Times put it.
Post-hack, Rudin and Pascal both released statements. Rudin’s read, in part:
“[…] private emails between friends and colleagues written in haste and without much thought or sensitivity, even when the content of them is meant to be in jest, can result in offense where none was intended.”
In addition to the discussion on what constitutes professional behavior in the entertainment industry, and identifying the considerable role that gossip plays, the hack also launched a conversation among journalists about how to handle information resulting from the hack. Several journalists were concerned that the “information” had actually less of a “the public has a right to know” caliber than a salacious “yep, we knew that people in Hollywood talked behind each others’ backs” quality to them – that distinction was the difference for many between feeling obliged to use the information and feeling that using the information would be both gossip and a validation for the hackers’ methods.
There are certain things that are out of our control, especially in this wild world of internet transparency, with endless space in the cloud – wherever that is – to record our most inane or insane moments. But the space between the character we display in our public moments and the way we conduct ourselves online seems to be widening. While we may not be inclined to cease joking about people in power, be they presidents or supervisors or Angelina Jolie or Kevin Hart or parents or siblings, those of us who care about being consistent in our character might want to take an extra look at that email before it’s sent, or that blog post before it’s published, or that Tweet before it’s tweeted.
Are we the people we are in our face-to-face interactions, or are we the people we are in our private communications, when we think no one else is watching? And when we pause before posting, we should think for an extra minute or two (or 60) – is this a statement we want to be associated with our name, not just in a private email but in public?
In other words, let’s hack our own identities – both online and off – to more fully understand how our private correspondence connects to who we are as we walk through the world, both professionally and personally.