In this XOXO talk, internet host, podcaster and writer Veronica Belmont talks about the meme that has taken over her life. Seven years ago, as part of an online show, she made a silly joke, which has been transformed into a widely shared .gif file. No matter what else she does, this one .gif, now taken completely out of context, continues to dominate every mention of her name online, every appearance she makes.
Welcome to the internet, a medium that never forgets, and something that moves faster than our cultural norms can adapt. Hence there are so many people who now have that embarrassing moment permanently preserved for all to see and mock. Though the internet has brought us many wonderful things, one thing it seemingly lacks, is empathy.
Belmont suggests that the lack of empathy we exhibit online may come from the speed at which we react online, the quick-hit, strive-to-be-first attitude that requires an immediate response, which at least one study has shown to reduce empathy. She also makes an interesting suggestion about the differences in how we behave when speaking aloud as opposed to typing statements. This seems very relevant to the world of academia — compare the tone of comments/questions asked aloud at a meeting to those posted online for example.
These shifting societal norms, as well as permanent availability of past mistakes hit particularly hard for researchers, given how much of the research career structure is reputation-based.