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Overexposed on the social Web

Photos of and lewd comments about high school track star Allison Stokke, 18, are “plastered across the Internet,” the Washington Post reports, and this week newspapers and blogs nationwide have covered this social-Web phenomenon (a Google News search Wednesday turned up about two dozen newspaper stories). This is all unwanted attention for Allison. “After dinner one evening in mid-May, Stokke asked her parents to gather around the computer,” according to the Post. “She gave them the Internet tour that she believed now defined her: to the unofficial Allison Stokke fan page [ – since taken down at her request], complete with a rolling slideshow of 12 pictures; to the fan group on MySpace, with about 1,000 members; to the message boards and chat forums where hundreds of anonymous users looked at Stokke’s picture and posted sexual fantasies”; to the imposter profile on Facebook (which it immediately deleted on notification).” All the attention has been tough on her and her family. First Allison tried to ignore it, then she told her coach she wanted to figure out how to get it all under control. Within a few weeks, after a Yahoo search of her named turned up 310,000 results, she decided control was not a possibility. The takeaway: It helps to be a nationally ranked pole vaulter (attention all star athletes and persons of accomplishment of any sort), but notoriety good and bad can happen to just about anyone now on the user-driven Web. The solution? To be proactive. We can’t control what others post, but we can post positive content about ourselves. “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 New York Times reported two years ago. Sounds like a lot of work, but it could be fun and it’s better than what a future athletic recruiter or employer would otherwise find! See also “Kids: Budding online spin doctors” and “Your kids: What people see online.”

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