After five years of Nicole trying to get her life together following the blow an online goof dealt her, she repeatedly said to anyone who would listen, "If I could go back in time and change it, I definitely would. I'd probably save myself from the stress and pain that I went through."
In a more relatable account, Tolu Oniru, a Nigerian on-air personality popularly called Toolz shared the story of how an unrefined YouTube video cost her a potential job when it was brought up during the interview.
Then there is Kevin Hart, popular American comedian and actor, whose decade-old homophobic tweet made him lose the job of hosting the 2018 Oscars despite deleting the said tweet and apologising.
These are just a few stories of Internet use with bitter endings.
The fact that the Internet has become a prevalent part of people’s daily lives globally, and how connected everyone is, proves that our vulnerability has increased.
It is highly probable that the end of your digital life will spell the end of your life as you know it. This is because your online reputation is so connected to your real-life reputation; and therein lies the power ascribed to the Internet.
If anything is disregarded, it should not be the likelihood that anything written online will be found in the future. It doesn't stop at that, these things can be used to hurt you, your career, ambitions, and even relationships.
Suggested read: Why we should all be scared of our smartphones
It may be difficult to erase online errors
One shocking detail about sharing content online is that the Internet doesn't discriminate, it doesn't make distinctions between what's done for a bad or good cause; it saves them all and leaves a trail behind: a footprint.
Call it a digital footprint...
This is a trace of all your digital activities. Do a little test and type your name in a search engine, then go through what the digital world knows/thinks about you.
Interestingly, this not only covers posts, tweets, and uploads, it also includes Internet searches and other website activities.
Depending on the digital platform, wiping out content to reduce the risk of it being used against you in the future can be as simple as using the delete option or as hard as requesting search engines or website owners to take it down.
However, what is beyond your control is how the online community uses your data -- who downloads it, copies it, or makes it available elsewhere.
It may involve an effort as little as taking a screenshot and uploading it to an online storage -- where it can be neither damaged nor lost.
Call it the cloud...
This is a secure way of keeping data online instead of storing them in hard drives, where real-time accessibility is possible via web interfaces. Cloud is also the mode of computing used by your favourite social media services, media sharing platforms, webmail services, and digital apps.
The implication of this is that the average Internet surfer has interacted with the cloud at some point. What this means is that the details of their interactions with these services are stored in discrete locations/data centres and can be accessed when needed.
Don't make that mistake
You would be very wrong to think your activities on social media or generally, the Internet, don't matter. While profiling people based on their online activities might be a biased way of judging them, many times their public personae are inseparable from who they are offline.
In a world where the job market is competitive and recruiters use various metrics to streamline prospective employees, something as negligible as a caustic social media post can turn out to be what ruins the chances of a bright and qualified person.
What could simply have been a careless post, tweet, or video might have long-term negative effects. As is sometimes the case, users’ mindsets change with the passage of time, but no amount of explaining will suffice to address the error in judgement made at the point of putting out the content.
For all it's worth, your Internet history may turn out to be a weapon, and living with bad publicity is definitely not what anyone desires.
You do not want to join the Nicoles and Kevins out there, who wished they did it right and many more who have unwittingly written their regret stories.
Use the Internet responsibly
It is important to ask questions such as: Is this necessary? If this goes viral, what is the implication? What does this mean for my career, reputation, and relationships?
Perhaps, convincing answers to these questions should be sufficient enough to decide whether or not to go ahead and push out that content.