While the storm surrounding the leak of the intimate and personal photos of 101 starlets, actresses, singers, and athletes seems to be abating, the Gigabytes of collected photos and videos, ranging from PG-13 to X, will never be erased off the Internet. Ever. And, even if they were, they probably will live in a million cigar boxes of a million aging 13-year-olds on a million Gigabyte thumb drives forever. They’re calling the event — the hacking of a hundred personal and private Apple iCloud accounts where a hundred women backed up the iPhones on which these photos and videos resided — the Fappening.
The Fappening is Not Unique to Celebrities
This sort of occurrence is commonplace and has existed in one form or another since the dawn of photography. I wonder if there were leaks of racy daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, and tintypes back in the 19th century.
Part of my practice at Gerris Corp is helping people solve their online reputation crises. Recently, a women was referred to me who had a problem.
Her ex-husband had uploaded several intimate nude photos of her in various states of undress onto a revenge porn site. The photos were clearly named as being her, her full legal name, and she was worried that someone she worked with at her beauty product multinational would recognize her and report her to HR or the C-Suite and it would destroy her career.
Why did the man she married do this to her? The man she committed to “till death do us part”? Upon their divorce, she retained custody, and he was trying to use the uploads as leverage to get her to relinquish custody to him. To show that she was an unfit mother.
The story has a happy ending — or as happy as these things can as the photos of her probably still love somewhere, on some hard or thumb drive.
We at Gerris connected her with an experienced lawyer and together we were able to get the photos removed from the site.
In addition, the Judge who ruled on the custody battle ruled against the father and for mom because posting nude photos of your ex-wife on a revenge porn website shows poorer judgement than posing for fun, sexy, and intimate photos for the man you love, trust, and intend to be with forever.
Thank god for just judges.
Are You Prepared to See Yourself Naked on TMZ?
Every time you think about taking an intimate photo of yourself, a person you love, or your lovemaking, ask yourself, “am I prepared to see this on the Times Square Sony JumboTron forever?”
Actually, in the world of the Internet, let’s take it even further: everything you write, post, share, email, blog, tweet, pin, tumbl, retweet, like, star, +1, and heart can reflect on your reputation. Even the people you follow, the companies and organizations you like, and possibly even the feeds you read, the sites you visit, and the content that you secretly like to explore on reddit, imagur, and Tumblr.
Don’t worry. I don’t mean to pitch you into a morass of paranoia, fear, anxiety, and foreboding, I just want you to realize that you’re potentially vulnerable to observation and judgement no matter where you are and what you do.
Would You Do, Say, or Show That at a Dinner Party?
What you need to do at every step — but only if you care about being shameless, fearless, bold and brave and very well inoculated against any and all of these things — is ask yourself, “would I share this photo, story, experience, information, opinion, or insight at a dinner party with all my friends, family, in-laws, my boss, my staff, my priest or rabbi, my aunts and uncles, my teenage nieces and nephews, my children — no matter what age — and, of course, my spouse?” If it helps to think about it more clearly, what would you be willing to include in a toast at a wedding?
At your Thanksgiving feast?
Imperviousness to Shame and Shunning
It doesn’t come down to your aversion to risk, it comes down to your tolerance to pain, embarrassment, and shame.
Even if you’re comfortable with your body, your sexuality, and the choices you’ve made, what are the pain thresholds of your potential employers, your current employer, your extended family, your current and future mates, and especially your kids (your kids won’t appreciate your glamour photos until they’re in their 40s, if ever).
And even if you’re comfortable with all of that now, think about future you.
OK, back down to earth.
Eventually, This Won’t Be a Thing
I had this same conversation with my girlfriend last week. She is much more down-to-earth and realistic about people’s lives and behavior. Her point-of-view is terrific. She believes — and I agree — that all of this will eventually become a non-issue — and here’s how.
When I first got into online reputation management back in 2002, companies like American Express were not hiring prospective employees out of college who were drinking beer, holding a drink, smoking a cigarette, or even just filling the image gallery with unprofessional photographs where human resources (HR) could snoop and discover your foibles and failings.
Now, were Amex to even try such a thing, even the top of the class from Princeton, Yale, Stanford, Harvard, Columbia, and Duke would not make the grade — and those who did make the grade, would you really want to work with them, anyway?
So, according to my sweet girlfriend, the only way out of this is if it becomes no big deal. If it becomes as commonplace and as everywhere as selfies, 20-something photos of beer pong, tall boys, SXSW, Burning Man, Spring Break, Summer loving, and even popular and proud reference to marijuana use, then we can take a breather, take a break.
It won’t be so easy. The United States might very well be one of the most Puritanical nations outside of the realm of religious extremism. While we’re super-saturated with porn, objectification of women, and penis jokes, we’re all still pretty ashamed about it.
I do believe that we will eventually become tolerant to seeing each-other’s private and most intimate photos — hell, most of us have already seen inappropriate photos of you when you handed us your iPhone to let us look at pictures of your kids and we swiped one too far and saw whatever was going on there and whatever that was (and who was that? Was that Mildred?) — but it won’t be very soon and it won’t be until either most employers have had a personal experience with having private photos of themselves or someone they know go through the permanent hell of having their most intimate and private moments become public in a Google search or if the pool of top-notch potential hires dries up because too many of them have indelible marks on their records in the form of profane, personal, scandalous, and sexually-explicit photos and videos online.
And, don’t be a woman as that’s where our Puritan heritage really explodes. It’s a strong double standard. Men will very often be excused for things that a women would never be allowed to forget.
Until then, however, it’s still hunting season on explicit photos. My lovely girlfriend said it best, “people will always do it. People will always do it. That will never change. People have been doing it, especially for people they love and miss, especially when they’re apart. And, no matter how cynical you are, Chris, people always trust the one they love the most and will always believe they will be respectful and careful stewards of those most sensitive and intimate of gifts to and for each other. Assuming that, Chris, what then?”
That’s a very good question. What do you guys think?
Feel free to own the yacht but hire a crew if you’re not yet seaworthy. If you get my drift and want to adopt the yachting lifestyle yourself but either don’t have the mad sailing skills yourself, don’t yet posses a world-class crew, and don’t know yet where to go, then you should give me a call or reach out me by email — so I can help you pilot your vessel now, in the tranquil blue-green shallows of the Caribbean, as well as in the roughest seas and into — as well as out of — the storm.