Teresa Ovalle

Welcome to Me

It’s Only Forever

on May 9, 2014

I regret to inform you that the photos you posted last weekend of you and your buddies doing something stupid will prevent you from getting that awesome job for which you’ve been hoping. Your resume was fantastic – the best of the bunch according to your would-be employer – but she was not impressed with what she found online about you. Sad. You would have been perfect for the job.

You’re not the only one. There have been others.

Private First Class Tariqka Sheffey is a young Soldier who decided to stay in her car and take a selfie rather than to get out of her car to salute the flag she joined the Army to defend. Her posting experience is a good example of how the internet does not forget. The photo went viral and has made her life a bit more challenging. Her investigation is ongoing. (armytimes.com)

Another example includes Air Force Staff Sgt. Cherish Byers who posted a photo of herself tongue kissing a POW/MIA emblem. (Harper) Outrage ensued over this photo, as it should. The reason I share this example, is that this was not a recent photo. Byers took this photo three years ago. The internet does not forget.

Last year, a Texas teen named Justin Carter posted that he planned to “shoot up a kindergarten.” Carter is a 19-year-old kid whose bail is set at $500,000 and is being charged with making a terrorist threat. (Hu) I know this is not the same as posting photos, but Carter’s one stupid post has cost him a lot – particularly his freedom.

Each of the examples listed above is of young people willing to share their information with others. How many friends do you have? How many friends do your friends have? And how many friends do friends of your friends have? Do you get my point? Every time you push the share button, you run the risk sharing your information with far more people than you intended.

There is a 1980’s shampoo commercial about a woman who liked her shampoo so much that she told two friends. Her friends told two friends, and those friends told two friends, and so on. This example is very similar to what happens when we post something online. People you know may forward your post to their friends who may forward to their friends. There’s no pulling that information back. The posts you share may be deleted from your files, but cannot be deleted from other people’s files.

The internet is unforgiving. As J. Rosen, the author of The Web Means the End of Forgetting, clearly states, “… the internet is shackling us to everything that we have ever said, or that anyone has said about us, making the possibility of digital self-reinvention seem like an ideal from a distant era.” (pg. 4) So you, a 15- to 20-something-year-old who takes an inappropriate selfie and posts it to Facebook today with hopes of one day nailing that awesome job, may realize that the selfie you posted years ago could be the demise of your dreams.

Viktor Mayer-Schonberger, author of Delete; The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age states that, “A study in 2002 estimated that about 5 exabytes – an Exabyte is a billion gigabytes or a million terabytes and equals a billion billion characters – of information are stored every year, at a staggering annual growth rate or 30 percent. More than 90 percent is in digital form.” (pg. 52) The photos you posted last weekend are included in part of that ridiculously high number of digital data. It’s okay. It’s only forever. Your photos aren’t going anywhere.

The more you post, the more likely what you post will be shared by others. Mayer-Schoneberger states that, “Due to the global reach of mass media, shared memory has long gone international, if not global, and digitization has made possible a larger and more globally shared memory than has been possible in analog times.” (pg. 61) Which means your photos are likely to reach way beyond your friends’ friends’ friends’ group of friends. That is a scary thought, especially when it dawns on you that the photos you just posted were not meant for everyone to see. What you post today can haunt your tomorrow.


“Faberge Shampoo with heather locklear classic tv commercial.” YouTube. YouTube, 21 Mar. 2009. Web. 6 May 2014. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KybhujdA4gQ.

Harper, John. “Air Force will take ‘appropriate action’ over viral POW/MIA emblem photo.” Most Read. Stars and Stripes, 15 Feb. 2014. Web. 17 May 2014. http://www.stripes.com/news/us/air-force-will-take-appropriate-action-over-viral-pow-mia-emblem-photo-1.267780.

Hu, Elise. “When Social Sharing Goes Wrong: Regretting The Facebook Post.” NPR. NPR, n.d. Web. 18 Apr. 2014. http://www.npr.org/blogs/alltechconsidered/2013/07/05/199074493/when-social-sharing-goes-wrong-regretting-the-facebook-post.

Mayer-Schonberger, Viktor. Delete: the virtue of forgetting in the digital age. ed. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009. Print.

Rosen, Jeffrey. “The End of Forgetting.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 24 July 2010. Web. 6 May 2014. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/25/magazine/25privacy-t2.html?pagewanted%253Dall&_r=0.

“Soldier flagrantly avoids flag salute, sets off online outrage.” Army Times. Army Times, 25 Feb. 2014. Web. 17 Apr. 2014. http://www.armytimes.com/article/20140225/NEWS/302250023/Soldier-flagrantly-avoids-flag-salute-sets-off-online-outrage.