Thursday, February 16, 2012

No One Wants to See It

You've probably heard by now about Paul Withee, the high school football coach in Maine (51 years old, by the way), who had the good sense to decide to send his girlfriend a “candid photo” of himself in all his glory, and nothing else.

Somehow (and don’t expect me to explain) the coach accidentally posted the picture on his Facebook profile instead of posting it in a private section or emailing it to his girlfriend. And, as luck would have it, while it was only up 30 minutes, it was seen by several folks, including a parent of one of his players.

Not surprisingly, the coach is now an ex-coach and, while the school district has first opened and then closed (after the coach's resignation) an investigation, it can't be too happy about what transpired and what the incident says about the folks that it employs to teach and mold its students.

Most of the blogging and other commentary about the incident have focused on the perils of intermixing work, personal relationships, social media, and technological ignorance or ineptitude. I initially thought about doing the same, focusing on concerns about privacy settings and information mining that have been heightened lately regarding both Facebook and Google.

Then I had a thought.

What if Mr. Withee had just had the good sense to not take the picture in the first place?

Sure, we can talk about the dangers of social media use, whether it's a good idea or not to "friend" students or athletes if you're a teacher or coach, whether privacy settings and their constant changes on social media sites and search engines make it difficult, dangerous, and intrusive to use the internet. But the bottom line here is, if Withee hadn't decided that his girlfriend would want to see the photo, and if he hadn't had the ability to take it and then try to send it to her, then no one would be none the wiser.

In the good old days, Withee wouldn't have had the ability (or inability as the case may be) to disgrace himself and convert himself from a successful coach to an unemployed one in the blink of a digital camera. At best, he could have tried to take a Polaroid of himself and slip it to his gal, or stick it in the mail. Eventually, he would have probably been done in by an inappropriate comment or suggestion, but the entire world would have never known.

Idiots are, and always have been, idiots. It's just that technology makes it easier for everyone to know exactly who they are. Parents, students, employers, the government. Everyone with a cell phone has a digital camera and every buffoon with an email account or a Facebook page has the ability to publish to the world anything they want.

Even if nobody else wants to see it.

Would you want a nude photo of this man on your Facebook page?

Withee was duly "embarrassed", "ashamed", and "humiliated" by the incident and said that he had never done anything like that before. While there is plenty of reason to not believe that, simply put, once was one time too many.

It's real simple, guys. As much as you like to think they do, no one, and I mean no one, needs to see a photo of you and/or "it." No matter what your wife, girlfriend, or significant other says, they don't need to see it, and aren't as impressed as they let on. No matter how tempted you are, no matter what a good idea you think it is, don't take that picture.

The best explanation is not having to explain.

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