In a new book entitled lol… OMG! : What Every Student Needs to Know About Reputation Management, Digital Citizenship, and Cyberbullying, Stanford MBA student Matt Ivester explains the dangers of bad online behavior, based on his experience creating and leading a web service entitled JuicyCampus, starting in 2007. The book explains the dangers of bad online behavior, and offers advice to college students who want to enter the adult world with their reputations intact.
In 2007, Ivester founded JuicyCampus.com and invited students at Duke University to gossip freely and anonymously. When he started it, he thought it would be a fun place for college students, but it soon became, “… this malicious website where students were attacked. It got away from me,” he sid in a recent interview with the Stanford Graduate School of Business. “The posts named names, and they were racist, homophobic, misogynistic, vulgar, sexually explicit, deeply personal,” he wrote in the book’s preface.
JuicyCampus.com spread to 500 campuses, attracted investigations from two state attorneys general, spawned hundreds of complaints from college administrators, students, and parents, and even caught the attention of national broadcaster Katie Couric, who described JuicyCampus as a “malicious cesspool of barbs, disses, and insults.” In February 2009 Ivester shut it down.
Out of that experience, he Ivester realized that reputation management and cyber-bullying are big problems on college campuses, and there are not a lot of resources for college students. So, he wrote the book to raise students’ awareness of (1) how their decisions about posting content online will affect how others see them, and (2) how posting decisions by one student will affect the reputations of others.
The book includes carefully chosen anecdotes about videos, PowerPoints, and emails that were meant to be private, but were seen by millions of people.
Previous generations did not have to worry about their college experiments and mistakes living forever for billions to view, Ivester said. But, now, photographs of unflattering behavior, vicious comments on blogs, and even students choices of which pages to “Like” on Facebook could come back to haunt a student twenty years into the future.
“The book is all about personal responsibility,” he says. He starts from the premise that students are creating their online reputations with every piece of content that they post. Most of them enter college with an established digital trail. “Now it’s time for them to take control of that trail and make sure that they are portraying themselves in a positive light,” he says. Campus life offers many temptations and opportunities to experiment. What goes up online will be taken seriously by many people in the outside world. Prospective dates will do a search on their names. Professors, future employers, neighbors, and parents of the friends of their children — the list of possibilities is long.
The book describes ways students can protect their reputations, from carefully managing their privacy settings to constantly monitoring what appears about them online, in addition to a crash course in free speech and tips to help persuade others — either through friendly or litigious means — to remove unflattering content.