ORM Horror Stories

You probably aren’t here by mistake. Something brought you here; either a problem with your own name in the SERPs or perhaps concern for a loved one. I would love to think that people are being proactive with their online reputation, but the sad reality is: Mostly it’s just reactive.

CreditPhoto illustration by Andrew B. Myers. Prop stylist: Sonia Rentsch.


In the news, I keep running across ORM Horror stories. They all have a similar pattern: Most are decent people that slipped up once, said one thoughtless thing, got caught on film in a questionable moment and suddenly their name is now associated with that one unretractable moment. We’ve ALL been there; done that in both on and offline moments. Yet, for some reason these people are chosen by the fates to be the ones eternally punished for that one moment. These people can’t get accepted to college; can’t get a job; can’t even get a date; all because when someone Googles them, that one moment from 5 years ago is there to define them.

As my eldest child heads into his teen years, making him understand the consequences of these careless split second decisions is tough. I’m trying to impose the idea of long term consequences on a person who won’t even have a fully formed frontal lobe (the part of the brain responsible for rational thinking and impulse control) for another 5-8 years! The task is daunting. Think about it: If, on a daily basis, rational law abiding adults are making these grave errors and lapses in judgement, how am I supposed to get my teen to make the right decisions online?

Interestingly enough, the only thing that seems to give them pause are these daily horror stories. “Wow, this nice normal guy is completely destroyed from this one careless remark. I say about 10 of these remarks a day!! Glad no one posted it on line yet…” While I’ve been sharing these stories with my son, I realized other parents might need a reference too, so I’m dedicating this section to the Cautionary Tales of ORM.

Disclaimer: I intend to just report the stories as I seem them.  I would rather leave judgement out of the equation, especially since these people, who have usually committed no legal crime are being judged and sentenced far more harshly in the public arena than any judicial system could ever manage.

Cautionary Tales: