Teaching, Promoting, Cheering UX and SEO Since 2002

Angry? Destroy Their Reputation Online!

An old friend once told me back in 1995, “Assume that every email you send will eventually land on the lunchroom bulletin board for everyone to see.” It was great advice for email. It’s even better advice for blogs.

Miffed at someone? Kill them with words. With the Web as ammo, it’s easy to wreck someone’s job, life and reputation. Google has a great memory. Glen Allsopp wrote about three women who went off to raise a little hell at their boyfriends in A New Wave of Reputation Management Issues. He wrote:

These three women found out their partners were looking for love elsewhere, they all found their relief online. Did they find support groups or forums that could help them deal with the emotional pain? Nope.

* One started a blog about the cheat
* One edited a dating profile for her partner, adding some embarassing extras
* One “hacked” into her partners emails and humiliated him

Oh, how I’ve wanted to vent, curse, whine, scream bloody hell and verbally beat the crap out of people or companies who’ve been total jerks. What stops me? It’s so uncool to do it. Why? Because nobody can hurt you unless you let them and revenge doesn’t heal the pain. It deepens the wound.

It’s frustrating me how the Web is used as a weapon. I refuse to use it that way. It’s always been my vehicle for peace, community, knowledge share and crossing bridges.

Competition on the Web can get ugly. Signals get crossed. I lost a friend because of a disagreement over links. To me, it looked as though I wasn’t good enough to be associated with his company and I took it hard.

In a different twist, I’ve been accused of being unfriendly to people who believe I’m ignoring them. Perhaps I am. Have you offered me a reason to trust you? Do you work hard or expect free hand outs? Do you want friendship or want to use me for something? I can usually tell.

With the Web, friendships seem to develop and erode very fast. The word “Friend” online is used to loosely describe anyone who walks up to you and requests to be called your friend. I know I have some “real” friends because they’ve put up with me for years, no matter what.

Not all of my friends like each other, which is tough to deal with. On the web, we’re judged by who we associate with, who we work with, our business partners, blogrolls, and now, who we yack with on Twitter. One of my SEO friends is working her butt off trying to get my 50th birthday party worked out. I met her online. She’s been one of the most incredibly loyal, devoted, supportive friends I’ve ever had. She believes in me and has faith in my work and career. Sadly, some of my other “friends” don’t like her, with one of them going public about it.

And this is what scares me about what people can do when the Web is treated like a weapon of mass reputation destruction. If someone Googles a name and finds something harsh written about the person they’re looking up, how true is it? Is it one person’s experience or 100 people?

There’s two sides to every story.

We can’t grow if we keep throwing rocks. Granted, I can see why those women went off on their boyfriends. But, would you date a woman who hacks into her boyfriend’s email or thinks public humiliation is justified? Glen’s blog post included their pictures.

Lunchroom bulletin board.


  1. May 14, 2008    

    Great post! I agree with part:

    >> Because nobody can hurt you unless you let them <<

    this is something I try to teach my kids. Nobody except my family is worth that kind of power….

    I’ve been online now since 1986 and thing will always remain true – Netiquette and common courtesy are two of the best things one can internalize and make their own.

    Data points,


  2. May 14, 2008    

    Loved the article, but I disagree with a few points… the web hasn’t always been used as a vehicle for peace, community, etc. Many of the web’s major advancements came from selling porn and pills. Porn in particular has led the way for most mediums from photography to film and now the web. It’s the sad side of human nature that we benefit from.

    And, it’s silly, but we can grow by throwing rocks… we grow a really strong arm.


    Hope you recognize both of those were in jest. Meanwhile, please disregard the hate site my company made for a competitor. lol

  3. May 14, 2008    

    Rhea…I need to correct my sentence that read, “I refuse to use it that way. It’s always been a vehicle for peace, community, knowledge share and crossing bridges” to say, “I refuse to use it that way. It’s always been my vehicle for peace, community, knowledge share and crossing bridges.”

    And yes. Porn, specifically naked women, have made the Web a much more interesting place. Can’t say I contributed to that though… :)

  4. May 15, 2008    

    “right or wrong begins where”

    With ourselves, and yes, it’s tough as hell to know what to do. :)

    I now know, in my old age, that bonds are broken, not because we did anything to cause it, but because people change through growth or where their destiny takes them. It hurts badly when it doesn’t include those of us who love them.

    However, there is no protection to be done, other than to keep walking and listening to your inner guidance (the higher kind, not the little ego.)

    Had I had access to the Internet when I was dating in my 20’s and 30’s, I would’ve been like those women in Glen’s article. Likely worse. Rejection was out of the question.

    It took a long time to understand that I have the power to keep loving through pain. And, I’m going to screw up, like every other day, and that’s got to be okay too :)

  5. May 15, 2008    

    This is a dismal exchange.

    I’ll vote up the Waver of the Olive Branch, the Serene One, KKB! And I’m entirely unable to credit the argument offered in rebuttal.

  6. May 15, 2008    

    Hi Mark. I visited your site and realized my son, a 15 year old all around athlete and workout fanatic, would love to know you :)

    Thanks for stopping by. It’s nice to “meet” you.

  7. May 15, 2008    

    Kim, this is one of the main reasons I have been such a fan of yours for close to a decade now.

    You are smart, honest,sensible and always display a sense of integrity. Easy on the eyes too I might add. you give good picture.

    You are truly a woman of character and substance.

    Happy bday BTW.

    You should be just about ripe.

  8. May 15, 2008    

    LOL Bob :) Ripe and frisky!

    Honored to have you stop by old friend.
    And thanks for the kind words. Good karma.

  9. May 16, 2008    

    Hey Kim, Great insight. It’s totally a karma thing. There’s no reason to get down in the mud and roll around with the pigs. It only gets you dirty, too, and on the web, it’s really hard to wash yourself clean again.

  10. May 16, 2008    

    It can get ugly out there. A friend wrote a book, and before he could see a single copy on amazon, competitors gave the book they never read a 1 of 5 rating and totally trashed the book. Needless to say this hurt sales.

  11. May 21, 2008    

    Great post. Online conversations can be so strange. It seems like an opportunity to say things you’d never say to someone face to face. Even worse is when people do this to someone they don’t even know. I’ve found over the years that the bad stuff people send out usually comes back to them in one way or another. I agree, be positive and leave judgement of others at the door.

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