Digital tattoo

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My friend Shannon and I recently went shopping for swimsuits at a clearance sale. Swimsuit shopping is a team sport in which you need a partner willing to grab a different size for you when you’re in the dressing room, someone who will tell you the brutal truth when a swimsuit is not doing you any favors, and someone who will commiserate about the fact that trying on swimsuits is like the root canal of shopping.

Shannon and I have enjoyed this level of brutal honesty for a decade now, so we waded into the treacherous waters of swimsuit shopping together. After we searched through racks and racks of suits and collected a handful of “maybe’s,” we had the following conversation outside our dressing rooms:

Me: “I need to narrow down the options here, but I’m not sure which ones look best.”

Her: “Here, hand me your phone and I’ll take a picture of you wearing each suit and then you can look at the pictures and decide which one is better. I always do that when I’m trying on clothes because sometimes the pictures help me make up my mind.”

Me: [Cringing and hesitating} “Um, I don’t know if I want a picture of this.”

Her: “You can delete the picture right after you decide which suit you want.”

cloud-37011_640 (2)Me: “Well, sure, but does anything ever truly get deleted? There would probably still be photographic evidence somewhere because all the photos get copied to the Cloud. The Cloud sees everything, Shannon! What if there’s a cyber storm or some kind of malfunction? I don’t want bad swimsuit photos getting rained out of the Cloud one day.”

She laughed and agreed that photos of an unflattering swimsuit are definitely not something we’d want lurking around the Cloud, the Internet or anywhere else. Pictures don’t lie, and they can convict a person’s thighs of all the carbo-loaded sins she may have committed during the winter.

Maybe I’m just being paranoid. There are plenty of people who are comfortable capturing their most private thoughts, moments and/or body parts on video or in photos and even texting them to other people.

Then when those phones or computers get hacked and the private stuff spills out into the Internet, those same people are outraged about the intrusion of privacy. While they have every right to be outraged, I’m always amazed that people allow those images to be taken in the first place.

In today’s digital age where anything can be shared around the world in a matter of minutes, my motto is “If you don’t want people to know or see something, don’t write it down or photograph it. Period.” As best-selling author Jon Acuff writes, “Posting a photo online is like getting a digital tattoo. Once it’s up, it can never be deleted.”

Yet people continue to take their photographic chances. They also sometimes forget that, anytime you’re in public, there’s a good chance you’re also on video. If you’re in a store, on the sidewalk, in a parking lot – anywhere – there are probably security cameras pointed your way. And even if they’re not, there is literally a smartphone video camera in the hand of almost everyone around us.

We should all operate as though we’re on always on camera because, chances are, we are. And watch out for what might one day rain out of that all-knowing Cloud.

Gwen Rockwood is a mom to three great kids, wife to one cool guy, a newspaper columnist and co-owner of

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