Stanley Kurtz has been all over the Columbia censorship mob story. As Stanley noted, it is interesting that the Columbia Spectator’s coverage focuses not so much on the incident but on Columbia’s decision to look at Facebook to identify some of the perpetrators. To some, the idea that a university would look to the internet to find public admissions of wrongdoing is somehow controversial and disturbing.
Truly strange reasoning is on display. Is it really the position of some students that they can break the law and brag about it in a forum that can be easily accessed by, oh, billions of people, and that leads to “worries?” Facebook, Myspace, and other similar sites harness the power of the internet to the unrestrained personal lives of millions of students (and young adults). This leads to strange outcomes as twenty-somethings live private lives in public, but without mentally abandoning the notion that this very public information is still somehow “theirs.” I can remember once surfing through Myspace to see if any employees that I supervised had sites and were saying anything about work that I would find interesting or concerning. Sure enough, I found somebody talking about how they were going through “serious problems” with their boss (not me, thankfully). When I asked about the problems, she reacted as if I had just eavesdropped on a cell phone conversation.
Memo to college students: Public information on the internet is, well, public. Give some thought to how the information currently on the web might look to an employer, a parent, or — given the current Foley mess — perhaps even a Congressional panel. I think we’re less than ten years away from having a presidential nomination or a serious run for House or Senate derailed by an ill-considered Facebook entry. If hazy high-school yearbook photos can cause weeks of angst for a Senator, think of the impact of the typical in-living-sound-and-color Myspace site.