Online Revenge is Tempting, but You Might Be The One Getting Hurt

Update August 11, 2010: We’ve learned the story of Jenny DryErase is a hoax. But I stand by my comments about this piece in the abstract and, now that it has been outed as a hoax, have concerns about copycats.

Over on TheChive.com, their post Girl quits her job on dry erase board, emails entire office (33 Photos) is getting a lot of attention.

In a nutshell, it shows 33 photos of a young woman—apparently named “Jenny”—holding up a white board, a new message on the white board in each photo. Using the white board, she explains that she’s quitting her job and lays the blame on her co-worker, Spencer, who she accuses of calling her a HOPA (which somehow translates into Hot Piece of Ass) and reveals how much time he’s spending on sites like Farmville and Scottrade. She emailed these photos to all her co-workers and, of course, they wound up online.

Comments have been almost universally positive, most wishing they had her courage to do what she’s done. While I understand the wish fulfillment element, let’s also consider some real-world issues. Notably, Jenny is making some pretty serious claims without backing them up, which could come back to hurt her a lot more than it would hurt Spencer.

Jenny is Making Unsubstantiated Claims

If someone at my workplace accused me of sexual harassment to the point where she felt she could no longer work for me, there would be an investigation. She would present her case and  I would be allowed to defend myself. Hopefully, a resolution could be found. If I’m a sexist ass, I’ll be fired. If she’s overreacting, she’ll be told that. If it is something in the middle, we reach a compromise. Bottomline: The situation is handled fairly, professionally and in confidence.

For Jenny, she is making accusations of misconduct against Spencer in a very public, one-sided way, which could affect his career. Imagine you recognize Jenny and know who Spencer is. Even if you’ve had no issues in dealing with him, these photos will color your working relationship with him. Maybe he deserves it, maybe not, but at the very least he deserves to tell his side of the story before being found guilty in the court of public opinion.

And let’s not forgot that Jenny has not presented any evidence to back her claims.

This is the Internet – These Photos Will be Here Forever

Jenny’s action, though motivated by an understandable  (to say the least) frustration, are also unprofessional and may come back to haunt her. If she wants to be a broker (as one photo states), she’s going to deal with high pressure situations where she will need to keep her cool and act professionally. Taking the time to shoot a series of photos and send them to co-workers as revenge against Spencer is hardly professional.

And since these are online, if they are ever tied to her full name they might turn up in an Internet background search by a prospective employer. I’d imagine a future boss, looking for someone she/he can trust, might not be impressed by this revenge-driven scheme to embarrass a colleague.

And he/she might wonder if he/she is next if she crosses Jenny.

We All Get Pissed – Deal with It Properly

There’s a proverb: “When you go on the path of revenge, dig two graves.” This is good advice. We all get mad and want to get revenge. In high school, we might write something on the bathroom wall. We’d hope to cause hurt while remaining anonymous.

Today, posting something to embarrass someone for all the world to see might make us feel powerful; we’ve humiliated someone the way they humiliated us. (There are over 400,000 results on Google for “girlfriend revenge site,” for example.) But this is the Internet – things spread and can grow out of proportion. Even worse, things might be tied back to you, landing you in a lot more trouble than the initial slight caused.

Perhaps this will blow over. Or perhaps Spencer will hire a lawyer and sue for defamation. Ironically, Jenny has provided all evidence Spencer would need for his case.

So I hope Jenny enjoys her 15 minutes of fame. It might turn into a much longer, less pleasant time.

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