I've been thinking a lot lately about image and how people perceive me. As a western woman in a fairly high profile role, I'm happy for my employers to think I am a tee totalling virgin. Although I do enjoy a night out, most of my socialising occurs at work-related functions or at dinner parties. Controlled environments.
Especially in a country like Qatar where there is a very strict moral code. What makes me even more cautious is the fact that qatar, indeed Doha is essentially one big rural town. News and gossip spread fast.
So, I can control my public image here. But the internet is a different beast entirely. I have often wondered, in darker moments, if something bad happened to me (killer croc, plane crash, kidnapped, arrested in the UAE) what awful stories from my past could be dredged up. Or more importantly, what photographs could be found.
In recent weeks, the world has been treated to the unseemly story of a Dubai based Bristish woman and her ill thought out romp on a beach there. If you have been hiding under a rock, you can read the story here
Within 24 hours of the story hitting the web, there were photos of the woman in various states of inebriation accompanying accounts of the sordid affair. Michelle with a cocktail. Michelle mugging for the camera. Michelle and a couple of pixelated comely young lasses enjoying Dubai's infamous nightlife.
Most disturbingly, "friends" of Michelle had already been trawling their digital photo albums and facebook, selling the pics to rampant UK tabloids and pocketing the cash (perhaps for their own booze-filled romps in Benidorm or the Costa del Sol).
Facebook has become the noughties version of the slide nights your parents used to host in the 1970s. Or carrying around the 20 dog eared packets of photos from your trip to Fiji in your handbag to bore your friends, colleagues, coffee guy senseless.
Except less private. Facebook encourages us to connect with the world, but in the process tells us to forget about our internal "edit" button. i admit i do post photoson my profile. Mostly of sites, rarely of myself. But I have one friend who has more than 700 photos of herself and her friends posted on her profile. that's a whole lotta information to be putting out there into cyberspace.
According to Newsweek there is a mini growth industry in new tech companies who can "clean up' your online repuatation. From expunging refernces to excessive patrying at unibersity through to more sinster initiatives. You can read their account here
I say there is an easier and cheaper alternative. don't put anything out there in cyberspace you wouldn't want to see on the front page of The Sun.