The reality of the Internet is that once something is posted or shared, the creator has little control over what happens next.
When I posted the “David After Dentist” video of my son’s reaction to a trip to the dentist in 2009, I had no idea what was about to occur. The first week, my wife and I had some mild panic moments. How did it go viral? Why all the attention? We actually considered taking the video down. We were concerned about David and how it would affect him then and in the future. Were people making fun of him? How would he handle all the attention?
In those first few weeks we had to make a decision about how we were going to handle the exposure. I had recently read about the Star Wars kid whose video was shared online without his knowledge and how it had negatively affected him. He had tried to hide from the exposure and even attempted to get the video removed. While this was a totally understandable response, I wondered if it would have been different if he had embraced it.
In our case the reaction we got to the video was extremely positive, with the only negative reactions being directed toward me, not David. We decided to fully embrace the exposure as long as it didn’t negatively affect him.
Time has proven that we made the right decision for us. We have had experiences as a family that we never would have had otherwise. David has handled it like a pro and now has this really cool event to add to his childhood memories. We also learned how to manage licensing and ads for the video and have made some money from the video.
We have had some critics, but looking back, we dealt with them just fine. This was easy for us since, for the most part, it has been a positive experience. Some cases are so bad that embracing them would be difficult. Our society is terrible at directing negative attention to people who hide or run. But it is fairly good at forgiving and giving second chances if we come clean and are totally honest.
The issue of cyber bullying cannot be ignored when talking about this issue. It is probably the main reason we are concerned about being exposed on the Internet. People can be vicious, and our psyche feeds off this. We can have 100 positive comments and one negative comment, and the negative reaction is all we focus on.
I have learned the hard way that the best way to deal with this type of attention is to ignore it completely. That’s what the Star Wars kid attempted to do. Turns out he did just fine. He was one of the first viral videos, and he got more than his fair share of negative exposure. But things finally calmed down, and he eventually went to law school and has used his “celebrity status” to speak out against cyber bullying.
As society matures in the Internet age, I believe we will eventually learn to put things into perspective and give any event, good or bad, the proper response that is needed. It comes down to being smart and following a simple rule: Be careful about what you share with the Internet.