Over the past several weeks we’ve seen a number of individuals get mobbed online because of old tweets, videos, and other things from their past. Most recently (as of the time that I’m writing this post) Sarah Jeong, a writer formerly at The Verge, got into trouble shortly after being hired by the New York Times when it was found that she had made some very racist tweets a few years ago. The tweets are quite vile and I won’t show them here, but they can be easily found online if you’re curious about them. At the moment the New York Times has decided not to fire Sarah Jeong and released a hilariously bad statement defending her behavior, and I’m sure that by the time this post is published there will have been more developments in this story.
I bring up the situation with Sarah Jeong not because I want to do an in-depth examination of it—plenty of other people have already done that—but because it got me thinking about whether or not my Twitter profile would withstand the level of scrutiny that was applied to her and other people. Currently on my Twitter profile I’ve only got a bit over 300 tweets—over half of which are me retweeting other people—and last week I quickly browsed through them to see if any stood out. Nothing caught my attention as something that would get me fired from my job if I were a more famous person and I don’t think I’d recant on any of my personal tweets but with how easily triggered people are online these days I have to concede that my Twitter profile would get at least a small amount of Internet outrage.
What actually might get me in trouble, however are my old blog posts. At this point I’ve published over 800 writing pieces online and I honestly don’t remember everything I’ve said in them. If you’ve been following my work for awhile you already know that most of what I write about is related to travel, video games, and personal stories—stuff that people sometimes have disagreements about but normally doesn’t cause a riot—but on occasion I’ve also written my opinions about politics and current events. While I don’t use slurs, swear words, and try to be polite, it is certainly possible that I wrote something years ago that I wouldn’t stand by today. We all change over the years, and though I’m confident that I’ve never published anything deplorable maybe if I reread everything I’ve ever published I’d find something that I’d revise. Then again, if there’s anything we’ve learned about online outrage mobs it’s that they’re always on the hunt for something to be offended by and will attack people for even the slightest of perceived infractions, so if they ever came for me they’d be able to find a way to start screaming about anything I’ve written. Seeing as how I’m not a notable public figure I don’t think I’m currently in any danger of being assaulted by online mobs, but I’ll admit it’s a bit scary to think about.