lol…OMG! | Notes & Review

Posted on September 15, 2012


Matt Ivester. lol…OMG: What Every Student Needs to Know About Online Reputation Management, Digital Citizenship and Cyberbullying. Special Edition. Serra Knight Publishing, 2012. (136 pages)

Forward by David Bohnett

He encourages us to forge identities online that are consistent with our better selves, and to take a proactive stance on creating and monitoring our online image. | Matt clearly explain the notion of a permanent record… (xi)


Online gossip wasn’t the same as offline gossip, for a host of reasons. (xvii)

Chapter 1: High School in the Digital Age

I honestly believe that high school today is harder than it has been for any previous generation. (1)

YOUR PERMANENT RECORD IS REAL. The mistakes that students make today, now easily searchable and immediately accessible, might actually haunt them forever. (2)

High school students are considered “digital natives” — people who have never known a life without computers and the Internet. (5)

Just because we grew up with the Internet, we think the Internet is all grown up. – Sherry Turkle in Alone Together

In reality, though, it’s still just the age of a young adult, and in many ways is behaving like one. (6)

My intent in writing this book is to help students to do exactly that — not to tell you what is right or wrong, but to arm you with the information you will need to decide for yourself how these technologies should be used, and what being a good digital citizen means. (6)

NOT-SO-COMMON COMMON SENSE. There are few real opportunities to “unpublish” or “unsend.” (7)

…this book focuses on how to prevent things from going wrong in the first place. It is meant to provide you with the resources needed to make educated decisions and to take deliberate actions online, becoming what I refer to as a conscious creator of content. (7)


  • Technology has fundamentally changed high school life in many positive ways, but also in some negative ways.
  • High school is a place to experiment and develop your identity, and making mistakes is a necessary part of that process. The challenge is to avoid having those mistakes captured and prevent them from haunting you forever.
  • The Internet is only about 20 years old, and, much like a young adult, its identity is still being shaped.
  • There are no easy answers or quick fixes. The solution is to educate yourself and become a conscious creator of content, thinking about both how that content will reflect on you and how it might affect others.

Chapter 2: Sex, PowerPoint and Invasion of Privacy

[recounts the infamous “Duke #*%& List.”]

Chapter 3: Digital is Different

Web 1.0 Called the “read-only” Web

Web 2.0 The “read/write” Web included the rise of social networking sites, blogs, and other online communities; most important, this phase marked the introduction of user-generated content.

Web 3.0 …more personalized to the individual. Using your browsing history, physical location, and other information that you provide, online services attempt to “understand” you, and anticipate your needs. Web 3.0 is also known as the “semantic Web.” (18)

The issue is more complex, but for the purposes of this book, suffice it to say that no such legislative action is in our near future. For now, and for the foreseeable future, when you post something online, you should acknowledge that you are giving up your control of it forever. (23)

PERMANENCE. What we do in the digital world often lasts forever. (23)


  • We are surrounded by computers and smartphones, providing constant connectivity to the Web, and allowing for the easy creation of incredibly large amounts of digital content.
  • Today, everyone is a content creator, and what each of us produces can quickly reach an audience of millions.
  • As soon as your digital content is posted online, you are no longer in control of where it goes, who sees it, or how long it stays there.
  • Digital content often stays online forever.

Chapter 4: A Library, YouTube and Death Threats

[recounts the infamous “Asians in the Library” YouTube video.]

Chapter 5: Your Life, Online

SUPERIORITY BIAS. Research has found that Superiority Bias is incredibly common, even among highly educated, self-aware people. The basic premise is that people generally consider themselves to have more desirable qualities, and fewer undesirable qualities, than the average person. (36)

AMBIGUITY EFFECT AND ATTRIBUTE SUBSTITUTION. …the natural human inclination to avoid scenarios with lots of missing or unclear information, or scenarios in which the probability of something occurring is unknown. We are presented with exactly such scenarios every day online. How many people will see what I’m posting? Who will see it? What will they think? Will it ever be on the first page of my Google results? None of these questions has a definite answer; so our tendency is not to ask them — instead, our tendency is to avoid them. | Attribute Substitution refers to peoples’ tendencies to make difficult, complex judgments easier by subconsciously substituting them for simpler problems. (37)

YOU ARE CREATING YOUR REPUTATION. Collectively, all of the digital content that you and others create becomes your online reputation. (37)

People will judge you based on what they find online. (39)

OVERESTIMATING THE INTERNET’S VALIDITY. Internet content is text and image-based, not spoken, and we access it from our computers, which seem so reliable (unlike bathroom stalls). As a result, people question the accuracy of Internet content far less than they should. (40)

FIRST IMPRESSION BIAS. In addition to giving Internet content more credibility than they should, people often weigh that information more heavily than they should. (40)

…people weigh the information that they receive first about a person more heavily than what they hear after. (40-41)

NEGATIVE INFORMATION BIAS. …when people weigh negative information more heavily than other information. (42)

When asked for some of the top reasons that a student’s online presence might have a negative impact on his or her application, admissions officers included “essay plagiarism, vulgarities in blogs, alcohol consumption in photos and illegal activities.” (46)

GETTING THE JOB. 70% of recruiters admit to having rejected a candidate based on information that they have found online,… (47)

One recruiter commented, “A lot of it makes me think, what kind of judgment does this person have? Why are you allowing this to be viewed publicly, effectively, or semipublicly?” (49)

BEYOND COLLEGE & EMPLOYMENT. The important thing to realize is that whatever someone finds out about you, whether good or bad, true or false, it will impact the way that they perceive and then interact with you; so, managing your online reputation — being a conscious, rather than careless, creator of content online — is critically important in many facets of your life. (51)


  • Students create massive amounts of content, often putting little consideration into who might see it and how it might be perceived.
  • There are many psychological reasons for careless content creation, including Superiority Bias, Ambiguity Effect, and Attribute Substitution.
  • Collectively, all of the digital content that you and others create becomes your online reputation.
  • Your audience is biased and puts disproportionately more weight on the first and any negative information that they find about you.
  • 24% of college admissions offices have looked at applicants’ Facebook pages.
  • 70% of corporate recruiters admit to rejecting a candidate based on information that they have found online.
  • Your online reputation will have a significant impact on your life in a variety of contexts, including dating, grad-school admissions, and employment opportunities.

Chapter 6: Becoming a Conscious Creator of Content

There is a thin line between creative and creepy, funny and offensive, personal and private. (53)

Knowing why you are creating the content in the first place allows you to weigh that value against the potential risks. (55)

While there have been very few cases, there is a risk that opportunists will use the information of where you are against you. | Another issue related to timing has to do with temporary judgment impairment. (56)

Sometimes, in the digital age, your only real choice is between sharing your content with everyone and sharing your content with no one. (58)

Failing to think about how others will perceive your actions, regardless of your intentions, is a trap to which everyone can fall prey. (61)


  • The best way to create a positive online reputation is to think carefully about all of the content that you share on the Web.
  • It is impossible to stop and do the rigorous thinking necessary to protect yourself every time that you post something online.
  • Knowing the answers ahead of time to these four key questions will help you make better decisions: Why are you doing this? Is now the right time? Where is your line between public and private? How controversial do you want to be?

Chapter 7: Active Reputation Management


  • There are several steps that you can take today to proactively manage your online reputation: Google Yourself, Clean up Your Accounts and Content, Update Your Privacy Settings, Ask for Content to be Removed, Update and Strengthen Your Passwords, Set Up a Google Alert for Your Name, and Claim Your Name.
  • If you find yourself with inaccurate Google results, one strategy is to pursue legal options. If your search contains unfavorable information about you, try managing the search results through SEO.

Chapter 8: A Webcam, Twitter and Tragedy

[recounts the story of Tyler Clementi, Rutgers University.]

Chapter 9: Good People, Bad Behavior

In a face-to-face environment, people tend to be more polite and positive, because social norms dictate a certain standard of how we are to treat people we engage with. But the “disinhibition effect” that occurs as a result of online anonymity often brings out both negativity and widespread criticism. Because of anonymity, people feel less accountable for what they say — and the quality of the dialogue quickly degenerates, often resulting in YouTube threads or blog comments that focus more on defamation and insults than on any thoughtful or considerate reflection. (102)

The term “anonymous” is commonly misunderstood as including “untraceable.” All “anonymous” really means, though, is that your actions/comments/postings are unattributed — you don’t have to sign your name next to them. (104)


  • Cyberbullying is the use of digital services and devices to cause harm to another person.
  • Sometimes cyberbullying is unintentional, resulting from carelessness rather than malice.
  • Cyberbullies exist in high school and in college, and attack their victims in a variety of ways, including posting offensive or harassing messages to Facebook, group email lists, and anonymous message boards.
  • Abstraction, invisible impact, shaming, anonymity and normality all contribute to people behaving differently (and often worse) online than they do offline.
  • Cyberbullies acting anonymously are not untraceable, and they are putting their futures seriously at risk as a result of the increasing number of states passing stringent anti-cyberbullying laws.
  • Victims of cyberbullying should follow five steps: consider the intent, don’t engage, keep a record, report it, and know the law.
  • Bystanders should proactively take steps to stop cyberbullying, whether by confronting it, reporting the behavior to an authority figure, or providing support and friendship to the victim.

Chapter 10: Your Digital Citizenship

The point is, you are powerful. you are shaping the Internet, leaving a legacy that will echo for years to come. Whether you organize a big campaign to combat issues of online incivility, actively stand up against cyberbullying or just lead the way by modeling ethical online behavior, you can have a real, lasting impact. (113)

…below are ten tests that may help you to judge your actions and make those decisions on your own:

  1. The Golden Rule: Are you treating others the way that you would want to be treated?
  2. The Golden Rule 2.0: Are you treating others the way that they would want to be treated?
  3. The Laws and Policies Test: Does what you are doing violate a law?
  4. The Everybody Test: What if everybody is doing the same thing that you are?
  5. The Offline Test: What is the real-world equivalent of what you are doing?
  6. The Real Name Test: How would you change your behavior if you knew that your real name would be associated with it?
  7. The Emotion Test: Are you doing something to someone because you are angry, jealous, or otherwise emotionally charged?
  8. The Whole World Test: Would you be comfortable with the whole world knowing what you are doing?
  9. The “Get It?” Test: Is what you are trying to say hard to convey online?

THE TENTH TEST. This is the test that matters most. Consider how what you are doing reflects on you as a person. (115)


  • You are in control of the Internet’s future, with the potential to leave a positive impact that will last for years to come.
  • No one can tell you how to be a good digital citizen, but there are several tests that might help you decide whether the behavior that you engage in online is consistent with your own values.

Chapter 11: The Future of Reputations

…embrace the change that is coming. (123)

— VIA —

I asked a few of my High School Freshmen students about this issue, and they admit this is a problem, but most of their generation is fairly aware of this danger. I’m curious how students at St. Francis High School’s reacted to this summer reading.

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