I don't regret the choice I made, I'm just sad I had to make it.

December 11 2015

I hope you will never be in the position of having to choose between giving up control of your public presence or letting injustice go unchecked. It's a hard choice to make, especially in the age of an internet which famously never forgets. Googling my name still results in pictures and news articles from years ago. It'd be nice to move on, to have my public presence match who I am and what I'm doing now, rather than essentially having been frozen in time by a particular event.At the same time, I can't support those who seek to completely wash away the past. So many societal injustices have been perpetuated and then swept under the rug in the name of "moving on" while the effects linger for generations. So many abusers have been given free reign to continue their actions unchecked because no one will talk about them. On some level it's critical that we own the past and acknowledge the legacy it has left us.

I'm just not sure where to draw the line. Easy access to global information has been a mixed blessing and curse: it's that much easier to get people involved, but it's also that much easier for people to involve themselves. I've seen amazing outpourings of support for worthy causes, but I've also seen the incredible harm that internet mobs and crusades can cause. A lot of the time there isn't even a clear distinction between the two: the fringe elements of an otherwise benevolent endeavour can be downright scary.

I don't regret the choice I made, I'm just sad I had to make it.

There's no perfect solution to this problem. We're all individual people with imperfect knowledge. The world is a very diverse place with many different cultures and value systems; trying to enforce one upon the others would create more problems than it would solve. But we can try to avoid being callous. We can try to empathize, even when we disagree. We can try to better understand the ways in which new technology might impact our society and how we can manage that impact responsibly.

My own explorations in this area have lead to a rather ironic result: I work for the very company whose search result pages remain a portrait of my former self -- on social privacy and harassment prevention. Go figure. At the end of the day, I hope I can help create a world in which fewer people have to be sad about their options.

One of the most important things in doing what I do is having a diverse set of experiences and perspectives to draw upon. I'd love to hear yours.

Amber Yust
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