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The digital cudgel

Sept 07,2019
HONG BYEONG-GEE
The author is director of the JoongAng CEO Academy.

Social media has become a digital mirror comparing the past and present of a person. Casual squibs on social media in the past can come back to haunt someone in the present.

Justice minister nominee Cho Kuk finds himself in the hot seat because of his past writings on social media. The contradictions have led to sneers that Cho Kuk’s biggest enemy could be himself. Cho was merciless in his criticism of past candidates for senior government posts, especially when they proved controversial. “We must not be fooled that a fly is rubbing its feet to apologize. We must stamp it out.” All his piercing attacks on candidates deemed unfit for senior government posts are now pointed at him. Past comments have been dug up to frame him as a hypocrite.

The act of digging into social media from the past has become common in the United States. Staunch fans of U.S. President Donald Trump go into digital archives of journalists critical of the president to find digital cudgels. A New York Times journalist who was critical of Trump came under fire after some racist writings from university days were discovered. One now has to check one’s past postings before attacking another as digital records are more powerful than human memory.

Digital records that cannot be erased have become an issue in the digital age. U.S. media critic Douglas Rushkoff points out that people have become emotional and impulsive because they are obsessed with what people are doing right now. He warned of “present shock” by borrowing the term “future shock” from futurist author Alvin Toffler. He advises people to take their eyes “off the ball” to see a bigger future, to take the time to understand and act and to think instead of searching to prepare for tomorrow. Those aspiring to be a writer should not use the digital space to pour out personal emotions and opinions. Think before you post!