Jonah Goldberg: Watch out, your character is showing
It's a bit of a trite saying, attributed to coaches, motivational speakers and fortune cookie writers (by the way, whose idea was it to replace fortune cookie predictions with treacly aphorisms from the "Successories" reject pile?).
Because young people do not yet have fully formed characters, they often need incentives beyond exhortations to do the right thing. That's one reason most parents reward good behavior and punish bad behavior — to create real-world consequences for poor decisions, and thus train the habits of the heart.
That's one reason I was happy to hear that college administrators have taken to perusing the social media habits of applicants. A Kaplan survey of top colleges, as compiled by U.S. News and World Report (once a news organization that did college rankings, now a college ranking service that occasionally dabbles in news), found that about a third of admissions officers at elite schools poke around on Facebook and other sites to check out what applicants are really like.
"Sure, the scrutiny may make them better at hiding what they don't want adults to see," writes Professor Mark Bauerlein of Emory University. "It will produce the same hype and earnestness we get in personal essays and resumes in the application packet.
But there's a larger point to be made here. We now live in a society in which there's always someone watching. Text-messaging, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, email, etc., amount to the new permanent record. In the past, if you embarrassed yourself in some horrendous way, you could often reinvent yourself simply by moving to a new town and starting fresh. Now your permanent record is in the Cloud and your scarlet letter can be found with a Google search.
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