Many people are familiar with palmistry – that’s the art of foretelling the future by looking at the naturally occurring lines on the hands. But did you know some people believe they can peek around tomorrow’s corner by studying feet? That’s the divinitive practice of podomancy.
Now I’m not entirely sure you can tell anything about anyone’s future from looking at their feet, but I’m absolutely certain you can see where they’ve been from examining their footprints. In this day and age, when we live our lives online, we leave behind us the digital equivalent of footprints – a blog comment here, an abandoned MySpace account there, a few dozen questionable Reddit comments; this stuff piles up.
Conventional wisdom regarding these digital footprints has tended toward: if you don’t do anything irresponsible online, or so we’re told, there will be nothing ‘out there’ to come back and hurt your reputation later. For some people, this works. For some people, it doesn’t.
Right now, published on the internet, are the deep, profound thoughts you had back when you knew New Kids on the Block would always be cool. Before you start hyperventilating too badly, remember that the same is true for almost everyone you know. When we look back at our collective history, there’s not just one set of footprints there; there are millions.
Perhaps that’s why the news that potential presidential candidate Jeb Bush’s aide has published offensive Tweets in the past has been shrugged off as a symptom of growing up in an oversharing age. As social media and other digital communications become more central to our communal lives, the awkward, ill-advised sentiments of teenagers and young adults are starting to be seen as exactly that – provoking eye-rolling, to be sure, but no more relevant to today’s conversations than the remarks that same youth would have made while hanging out at the mall with their friends.
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This is an important consideration for us to keep in mind when we’re taking on new employees, considering potential business partners or strategic alliances, researching vendors and more. Each of us has our own comfort level about how much we want to know about the people we do business with. Today, a simple Google search can open up a Pandora’s box full of information about your new contact. It’s time to have a conversation about how much weight and merit we give to what we find. Digital footprints, after all, can’t tell us where someone is going. They can only tell us where they’ve been.