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Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Kids: Budding spin doctors

It's a skill they'll need to develop, especially if they blog publicly at sites like MySpace.com, Xanga.com, LiveJournal.com (and that's a question to ask them: Do you know for sure that only your friends can see the posts in your blog?). It's almost impossible to delete the past or rewrite your history online. Stephanie Rosenbloom gives an example in the New York Times: a 10-year-old picture of her as a brunette in sensible shoes is still "the definitive image of me on the World Wide Web, the one that pops up every time my name is entered in a Google search," even though the "real Stephanie" is now blonde and wears stilettos. Then there's the friend of a Washington Post reporter cringing every time she thought about "prospective employers 'Googling' her" and finding "a concise and prominent summary of her dating proclivities" (see this item, 4/22). The solution? Rather than trying to get those Web sites to delete the offending photos and text (and many sites are still in the Internet Archive even after they've been taken down), be your own spin doctor. "The secret to burying unflattering Web details about yourself is to create a preferred version of the facts on a home page or a blog of your own, then devise a strategy to get high-ranking Web sites to link to you," the Times reports. An assistant attorney general emailed me recently: "When one of these kids is running for President one day [or interviewing for college admission or a job], those online pictures are sure to show up." Another daunting thought: party pictures on photoblogs (for future employers to google - see this piece at CNET).

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