A few months ago, my mobile rang. Unknown number. I picked up.
“Hi. This is so-and-so. Do you remember me? You purchased this-and-that from me a while back.”
I remembered. She was a medical doctor that I went to a few years ago. The procedure went well. Why whould she call me now?
“I remember you,” I said. “I bought this-and-that procedure from you a while back. It was great. How have you been? What can I do for you?”
“I’ve been well, thanks. Listen—” she sounded a bit hesitant but at the same time knowing she had the right to stand her ground. “—I am calling you because you have something about me on your blog that is—uh—unprofessional. When you enter my name in Google, it comes up on the first page. Can you take it down?”
Shit. I can’t believe this is happening, I thought. I know exactly what she is talking about. I posted this stupid article a while back. It had her name with some stupid words next to it. Apparently I have good SEO for her name. Okay, let’s end the call in a reasonable fashion and think more later.
So I said the only thing that I think is appropriate to say in this situation…
“Thank you for your call. I know what you are referring to. I am sorry for the trouble that I have caused. I will fix this.”
“Okay,” she responded. And then went on, almost sounding embarrassed that she had called me (even though I am the one that caused the problem), as if trying to make up for what she had requested… “How have you been? All good?”
“Yes, yes, thank you. The procedure was great and I’ve been well. I am again so sorry about this. I’ll take care of it.” And I hung up.
I wanted to punch myself in the face. I had written this stupid post that would otherwise have been fine, but it had in it the name of the honest doctor that was just trying to run her business, which I am not sure is not easy day-to-day. And due to what I had written, when people punch her name in Google, they have this stupid shit come up that does her a disservice, while in reality it was just my random thought after the procedure.
So, of course, I took it down. There was no reason for it to be up there. And Google took a while to reindex and remove the link to the broken page, but I don’t think it’s now coming up any more.
I didn’t expect my stupid blogpost to have such a real impact on someone else’s life and business, but it did. She went back to her several years of client records and took the time out of her busy day to call me up. The good news is, there was no human material damage caused. Maybe it hurt her business a bit, but no one died. Still, I wish I could undo the reputation damage that I had caused.
Already before this call, you’ll notice that I’ve gone light on my public posting. This call reinforces one belief that I already had, that’s grown stronger over the years: you can do whatever you want on the Internet regarding your own person. Post your thoughts, feelings, stupid pictures, whatevers. It doesn’t matter. It is your own life and thus you yourself will be responsible for all of this material.
But, it pays to be super mindful of other people. Don’t post names, pictures, anything really, unless you are sure that the other person would approve. It may come back to painfully bite you years later, as this phone call shows.
This is why I think that it’s not cool to post material about children. Doesn’t matter if it’s yours or anyone else’s. If you browse through all of my public site, you have no idea if I have kids or not. Well—for now, I don’t. But if I ever have kids, I’m sure as hell that you will never find a single photo of them on any public site. I will take tons of photos, sure, but when the kid turns old enough, I’ll hand the whatever-memory-device-we-have-by-then over to them, and they can then themselves decide if or how they want to publish any of that.
I’m sorry I was a dick to you, anonymous doctor. And to those reading this—just be nice to both friends and strangers.