What will the world be like in 20 years time, when all the current teenagers are angling for jobs as managers, politicians, gynecologists and any other professions where people attempt to check if you're an asshat before hiring you? This question came up on James Nicoll's live journal, stirred by the fuss over Whatsername Palin's pregnant 17 year old daughter.
When I was growing up, most of the crap I spouted was either to friends who were in no chemical state to remember it, or confined to paper notebooks I have under lock and key. Today's kids live life online. Each person's Facebook tells more about them than everything I have out there, including my embarrassing love letters and the soppy letter to the Beatles asking them not to break up. Under those circumstances, it's hard to imagine anyone passing a background check. Everybody does something that is, if not illegal, at least severely irritating to prospective employers or voters. Now it'll be online forever.
Yes, it will. Even if Facebook goes bust tomorrow, there's the Wayback Machine, which stores everything ever written on the web.
On James' LJ, there are a number of opinions. Some say that today's indiscretions will not be a sin tomorrow - underage drinking? Premarital sex? No one will care. Others feel that savvy kids will be cagey and not disclose these things online, even going so far as to avoid being photographed near a keg at college in case it's used against them later.
I think that something else will happen. There'll be so much information, and it will be so scattered, that most people will assume it's fake. If someone tells you John Smith fathered a baby with a 15 year old and here's a picture of the baby, you might believe it - now. I don't think people in the fyootcher will give it a second glance. They'll apply a cui bono test to any disclosure of information.
Of course, a population trained not to believe evidence is vulnerable to many other sicknesses. I'm not saying that's what I want; I'm saying that's what we'll get.
Courtesy of a link from James' commenters, here's a lovely song wishing MySpace and Facebook hell on tomorrow's parents.
MyHope, by sweetafton23.