I found this cast to be some very solid advice that jibes with my experience. Unlike most, I am a long-time user of the tubes that are The Internets and The Google. I first logged on back in 1983 and have had an online presence since that time almost continuously.
Over many years, I have managed to leave a digital trail behind myself that at the time, did not seem like much of a footprint for anyone to follow. As if we were the first pioneers walking through the great plains probably not to be followed but by a select few techno-wizards, many of we earlybirds had many off-color conversations and posted remarks here and there and everywhere which reflect poorly on ourselves today when found by you, the unwashed masses who followed us here - much to our surprise.
You see, back in the '80's, we never thought that the average person would ever have access to the Internet in their home, or even that college kids would use it daily from the labs at school.
"What the heck? There's non-IT people on our network!"
Those non-technology people started using new tools like The Google to search on our names and find the many billions of pages of rude remarks we wrote to each other in fun... now, not so fun.
I can share with those of you with MySpace pages or any kind of web site that while you will always have sympathy from myself, a fellow publisher of personal information I wish I never had published, that you most certainly need to remove anything you have on the web that makes you look like anything other than a squeaky clean candidate for the next pope.
Or, you might have this experience (I had this experience)
1. Walk into in-person interview for dream job you have been hoping for your entire life that pays gazillions of dollars at startup firm (eventually everyone hired at that time made millions)
2. Sit down.
3. Manager turns around his laptop to you
4. On screen is something you published 15 years ago when you were feisty kid that now is terribly out of context from how funny it was at the time (two friends bantering back and forth)
5. Manager laughs and shakes his head.
6. Manager says, "I'll be short. You are not getting any job here. While you were waiting, I found these things you wrote, and I have to say, while I think it is pretty funny personally, I can't have someone like you working here for me. If you went postal, they would just point at this and fire me for incompetence."
Picture US41 walking out looking ghost white in shock from the realization that non-technology people were using the Internet quite easily thanks to The Google, and that things 15 years old still look like they were published yesterday on a laptop screen.
Clean it up. Clean it up now. No kidding, guys. You might be 20 years older one day and want to run for mayor, but you won't be able to because your stupid photos of you showing your tatoos, boozing it up in the French Quarter, or your dumb arguments with people about politics will be cached on some site you didn't know stored everything on the web. You might be in line to become a VP in your company in your 50's and find yourself having to defend your own idiotic past as if you were running for president. Oh yeah, it happens. It happens A LOT.
I have some fairly tame stuff on the web these days. One day, I'm in a staff meeting with my boss's boss's boss's peers sitting on the side (I'm supposed to be paying attention, give feedback, and take lessons back to my staff meetings)... when in walks the big man and he comes over and jokes with me about my latest blog posting. Turns out, he's been reading it daily for years.
Yeah. Not really so good, but at least I was sober and clothed.
You may be thinking (now) that you don't want to run for mayor or be a big shot in a big company, and you will not ever want to work with people who would judge you like that. And yet, when you are 20 years older, every cell in your body will have been recycled three times, and you will be three iterations away from who you are today with vastly different opinions, perspective, and agenda.
Do not allow your present youthful self and your demand for freedom destroy your flexibility and opportunity in mid-life or later years. The things you do in the name of freedom today will be the bars of the cage you live in tomorrow.