Take our quiz to find out if you might be at risk of public humiliation.
As we wait for the next idiot in politics, business, or sports to, in a word, expose himself, let us pause to consider this increasingly familiar cultural rite. When our public figures put their smutty little sex lives inadvertently on display, we — the collective mob — exclaim, then chuckle, then explode with outrage. But who are we to point appendages? All of us who carry phones that are smarter than we are risk calamity. Could it not be we who are the next to fall? Even those of us who are not physiologically guided by that divining rod that has ruined so many? Yes, I mean women.
No? Not you? Answer the following questions, and we’ll see:
1. Have you ever sent a personal e-mail to somebody that, if it were put on the front page of the newspaper, would put you in the Hall of Shame? Note to my friend Albert: Remember the little poems you wrote to Janie before you both got your divorces and married each other? I believe they are still in the database somewhere.
2. Have you ever sent a picture, cartoon, or joke to a list of fellow morons that would put you in the HR doghouse? Note to my friend Don: I do think that really is Blake Lively, but it’s hard to tell. Photoshop can do amazing things.
3. Have you ever done something regrettable on a business trip? Note to Edgar: That time in Singapore? Just because stuff happens on another continent doesn’t mean it doesn’t count. And you expensed it, didn’t you?
4. How about that evening after the merger was announced when everybody went out, had dinner at an elegant restaurant, and got so drunk they ended up turning over tables, trashing the place, and almost getting arrested? Note to self: Consider deleting this one.
5. Remember this, Bob? It was very late. You were between marriages, just named president. At about midnight, the presentation was done. There was nobody in the boardroom but you and Sheila, the vice president of marketing. You had both been drinking, and suddenly the boardroom table looked so very big and comfortable … Note to Bob: Hey, man. How you doing? I hear you got married again.
6. And you, Judith. Remember the time you decided that the annual convention in Las Vegas was a good time to visit Norman, the VP of new business development, at 3 a.m., with two bottles of bubbly, in your bathrobe? “No thanks,” he said. Note to Judith: Suppose he decided to take your picture with his phone that night. Huh?
7. How many strip clubs have you been to during your business career? Did you run a credit card in any of them?
8. Ever do anything you can’t remember at an office party? How about anywhere?
9. Do you have any enemies that would love to see you squirm?
10. Are you nervous thinking about this stuff?
Okay. If you honestly answered no to each of these questions, then you are solid, my friend, and I salute you. If, on the other hand, one or more kick-started a chain of associations you’d rather not pursue, you’d better clean up your act. We live in a digital world where there is no privacy and there are no small mistakes. That goes for you too, you little wiener sitting in class at Wharton, Harvard, or Stanford. Sure, you’re only 23 now, but that picture of yourself you just sent to that cheerleader will live forever, Sparky. And it just might get in your way when you’re a liver-spotted geezer pumping for that lucrative board seat in 2065.