Wednesday, November 16, 2011

When Forever Equals Ones and Zeroes

Computers and all the languages they speak all use two little things and nothing else: ones and zeroes. Even though it looks like I'm typing in English and you will read this (presumably also in English) on a pretty formatted page with a nice background photo and border, it will have all been done behind the scenes by a bunch of little ones and zeroes. 111001101011101000111 means something. Not to me, but to a computer it does. For all I know, I just solved world hunger by typing in a few digits. (That's not true, but you get the idea.)

One of the job-related hats that I wear these days is working in a customer support department for a major player in the entertainment industry. We get all sorts of inquiries, complaints, and petitions for help. There are plenty self-entitled people out there, many of whom are not only rude, but act like petulant, spoiled children with language that would make a sailor blush.

Foul-mouthed naval personnel aside, one of the requests I received was from someone who wanted to change her user name on her account. Her explanation was that she is now a business professional, and back when she chose this particular user name for her account she didn't know any better. She said that when she Googles herself, that user name comes up next to her real name on this particular account.

I gave her instructions on how to change her account name and thought we were done.

Today I got a response from her that even though she had taken the necessary steps to delete/rename her account, it still shows up on Google next to her.

I Googled her too and sho'nuff! She wasn't kidding! Right next to her name (unusual enough to ensure that I had the right person) was the inappropriate nickname about five entries down in Google.

Without beating anymore dead horses, the lesson is obvious. Even though we interact with computers through a monitor and keyboard, all those little ones and zeroes don't care. They'll be around forever. The interwebs is here to stay. And so is every single inappropriate nickname you've ever given yourself.


  1. Then it is unfortunate that you will be forever be known as Elljayjay.

  2. I had a very similar conversation with a subordinate recently; he had posted some unflattering things about senior management on his FB page, and unbeknownst to him we could all see them. When you put it online, it's not a secret anymore, no matter how much "privacy" you've been promised.