For those of you who don’t remember Len Bias, he was the #1 pick in the 1986 NBA draft who died of a cocaine overdose two days after being selected. It was at a time when I was in college and a lot of people I knew had started to experiment with that drug. The death of Len Bias woke people up to the reality of that drug, that you could die experimenting with it, and for all practical purposes, use of that drug ended that day for my generation.
Fast forward to today and the internet and how people use it. I realize you can’t read the image on the left, but it’s a Forrester graph highlighting the specific, different usage of the internet by different age groups. Whether people mostly read content, or create it, criticize it, collect it, etc. If you want the full page view, let me know and I will send it to you.
A big issue that is often discussed is that the younger crowd doesn’t really understand what happens when they press “send” on an e-mail or post an image on a place like Facebook.
What many younger people don’t seem to realize is that pressing send or posting something means that whatever you are sending or posting will be associated with your name for the rest of your life for all of the world to see and read about. This is because once you share something, even with one person, that other person may decide to send it to other people or post it to a larger crowd that you had never intended. You have no control of it once it’s out there.
As I read this article in the paper this morning, telling of how Duke alumna Karen Owen created a mock 42 page thesis about her “horizontal academics” telling of 13 Duke students she slept with and then methodically rated her experiences. She included photos and the names of the men, and even did a comparison graph of their performance. There’s even a reference to having great stories for her grandkids. She reportedly sent it to three friends, and they forwarded it to their friends, and then BOOM, it went viral and it went all over the world. Not only was there an article about it in The New York Times, but there was a big piece about it on the Today show.
My hope is that Karen Owen becomes the new Len Bias in that her actions will make it really clear to her generation and generations to come, that you have to be really, really careful about what you post and send.
My guess is that Karen is a good person, she’s obviously smart in general if she graduated from Duke, but I bet this is an extremely painful and public lesson for her and for her family and this is going to follow her for the rest of her life in job interviews and in future dating and in parent-teacher conferences at her kids school – everything. Yes, the odds are good that her grandkids will learn about this, but not in the way Karen intended.
But I do hope this will serve as a wake up call to future generations about internet privacy, which is fast becoming an oxymoron.