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My+Digital+Trail

Lily Kleinhenz

My Digital Trail

My best friend and I run a fan account for the popular 2010s boyband One Direction. While now, I am often a little embarrassed for my seemingly stereotypical fangirl behavior, I worry far more for my reputation in the future. 

What if one of the former band members uses a derogatory word? 

What if I disagree with their political ideology? 

What if they are accused of a crime? 

While pondering these questions, selfishly, I am always brought back to the thought of how this can be used against me in the future.

From our middle school days, we are taught to watch our “digital trail.” We are taught that everything we put on the Internet will be there forever, so be careful what we post. I have always lived by the motto that if I would not do it in real life, I will not do it online. Recently, that motto has not been enough to ease my mind. I tend to avoid being opinionated or posting anything that could lead to debate in the future.  

That is, other than my passion for music. 

I caption most of my Instagram posts using lyrics from my favorite songs to describe my feelings the moment the photo was taken and I post TikToks singing along to my favorite songs. I talk about my favorite lyrics and vocals and promote new content the band is releasing. I do all of these things while still a small voice in the back of my mind is chanting what if… what if…

While our digital trail may follow us, the things posted in the past are not always a reflection of who we will be in the future.

I would like to say that all of the artists I listen to and enjoy would never do anything that could be seen as disrespectful, but I cannot see the future. I am afraid that if one of the musicians I love does something wrong, someone will go back and find my TikToks or Instagram posts from when I was a senior in high school and use them to prove that, yes, Ella is a bad person. By association, Ella supports their disappointing actions. Ella should be fired from her job. 

While that may seem like an exaggeration, things that adults have posted in their teenage years have recently come back to haunt them. 

Alix McCammond, a former politics reporter at the Washington news site Axios, was supposed to become the editor in chief of Teen Vogue in May of 2021. After Teen Vogue staff members found racist and homophobic tweets McCammond posted when she was a teenager, she resigned from the job. 

McCammond, 27 at the time, was named journalist of the year by the National Association of Black Journalists and was vetted by the hiring team at Teen Vogue, who were aware of the tweets. Additionally, in 2019, McCammond apologized and deleted the tweets. 

“My past tweets have overshadowed the work I’ve done to highlight the people and issues I care about…” said McCammon in a statement after her resignation. “I look at my work and growth in the years since, and have redoubled my commitment to growing in the years to come as both a person and as a professional.” 

While I do not condone her past actions in any manner, at what point do we accept that she has grown? McCammon apologized and removed the tweets years before they were brought up in a professional setting and continued to apologize and show personal growth once she was announced for the job. At what point can we determine that she has learned from her past actions? 

As a society, we need to allow for  someone to move on from their past mistakes, especially when they are made during growing moments in their lives. Everyone makes mistakes at some point and we have to be able to acknowledge that we are not the same person that we were years ago. While our digital trail may follow us, the things posted in the past are not always a reflection of who we will be in the future. 

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