Is the Internet Killing Our Reputations?

If so, should we change or should society?

This article is from the archive of our partner .

"Reputation is dead," writes Michael Arrington. The Internet has created a world where everyone's dirty laundry is flapping in the online wind. From scandalous Facebook photos to anonymous message boards, few can escape a thorough background check unscathed. But that's okay, argues the influential founder of TechCrunch. Society itself will adapt and become much more tolerant of personal indiscretions:

The nonsense we’re all worried about today? I just don’t think it will carry the same weight in a few years. Because if there are pictures of the person hiring you smoking pot in college online, and there are pictures of every other candidate smoking pot in college online, it just won’t be a big deal any more.

Is reputation dead? Arrington's musings launched a lively discussion about keeping and losing dignity in the Internet age. To many, the loss of one's good standing isn't a fait accompli.

  • Arrington Is Wrong, writes Frank Shaw at Glass House: "The answer is not the death of reputation, but the realization that it is more important than ever... A reputation of fairness, built over years, can’t be undone by a Yelp review or random blog post. So the challenge is simple – think about reputation as a long term thing, built and nurtured and rebuilt time and time again. That is enduring. And important."
  • Everyone's Responsible for Their Own Online Reputation, writes Ron Schenone at Locker Gnome: "Online reputations do matter. Hopefully many of you who read this will feel the same way. I have seen comments made here that because of their vivid language and/or attacks to other readers were not fit to post and were junked by myself. I believe these types of comments would reflect on my reputation because someone could look at these comments as something I either agree with or approve of...Arrington goes on to say in his article that those who have a picture of them smoking pot will in a few years not matter much. He is at least hoping this will be true. But who decides what is right and what is wrong?"
  • On the Contrary, the Internet Can Save Your Reputation, writes venture capitalist Fred Wilson: "While I agree 100% with Mike that defending your reputation is getting increasingly difficult because of social media, I also believe that social media is the key to defending it and maintaining it... You can establish your reputation and others will stand up for you as well."
  • Arrington Is Right: Reputation Is Dead, writes technology guru Dave Winer: "This is something I gave up on long ago. There are too many people with too many axes to grind. When competitors make public and personal accusations, how are you going to respond, when customers are watching? It's a very low-road way to compete. Not much you can but weather the storm, keep offering the best service you can, figuring the smart customers will ignore the personal stuff."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.