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Public Image Ltd

As more and more people get caught playing hooky through Facebook—and, undoubtedly, will continue to get caught—it's clear that digital communications technology is having an impact on our sense of privacy and public image.

Perhaps we think we are immune to getting caught. Perhaps we think such public displays don't really matter. Perhaps we don't think anything at all when we hit SEND or PUBLISH. Regardless, potential consequences are obviously the furthest thing from many people's minds as they post images of themselves passed out drunk or doing foolish things, or write distasteful things about their acquaintances or bosses. And it has something to do with the perception of insulation we feel when sitting behind a screen.

Take, for instance, the example of Jamie Peck. She is a staff writer—make that former staff writer—at H. W. Wilson. I also worked there, though not contemporaneously with her, and I imagine we could trade similar stories. She wrote this piece about our former employer.

Jamie is right: Wilson hasn't changed much over time. But did she think Wilson was stuck in the actual—as in, not metaphorical—nineteen fifties and, thus, did not have the Internet and could not find out she had written the article (which, incidentally, she signed with her own name)? Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe she was frustrated by her job and just wanted to let off steam, as we all do.

The problem with letting off steam on the Web is that it's public, and it tends to stick around for the police, adoption agents, small business lenders, and current and future employers to find. The very real—as in, not metaphorical—consequences of Jamie's actions, no matter what she thought as she pressed PUBLISH, is that she's out of a job at a bad time to have to be looking for work.

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