An epic Facebook confession involving infidelity, divorce, pregnancy, assault, and, of course, law school provides a helpful illustration of why the social networking site is not the place to air your personal failings.
Above the Law's Kashmir Hill has published the note, which apparently made the jump from Facebook into the email inboxes of some of its author's fellow students at Georgetown Law. The document itself resembles a Victorian novel in its length, plot twists, and oddly formal language. This is just the beginning:
For the world to know:
I was an awful husband. Instead of being honest with my wife about the real problems we faced, I chose to band-aide my pain by seeking comfort in the arms of another woman. The single worst moral failing of my entire life, that I will never atone for and never live down. There is no excuse for my behavior and I deserve every stone that any of you choose to throw.
It's unclear whether "band-aide" is a veiled reference to the mistress's profession or a simple typo. But no matter: the "awful husband," whom Hill dubs BAD, BAD BULLDOG, then explains how he moved in with his mistress, broke up with her, "accidentally" gave her a head injury ("she attacked me in a spurned lover's rage. I pushed her away. She slipped, fell, hit her head, and went to the hospital with a concussion"), tried to make up with his wife ("The future looked like it could be redeemed"), only to find out that his mistress was pregnant. His wife broke up with him again ("My days and nights were dark"), he broke up with his mistress, and his mistress accused him of "rape, domestic assault, and stalking," jeopardizing both his law career and his status as a Marine (this guy had a lot of irons on the fire). And to top it all off, he found out his mistress wasn't really pregnant.
For some reason, BULLDOG thought the solution to this seemingly insoluble problem was a confession/apology/denial via Facebook. Here's the best part:
So there it is, world. Your morality tale, your I told you so, your flawed American hero, or whatever else you choose to make of all this. My ex wife is blameless. The failings are mine. I never raped that girl.
Aside from the fact that it reads like a colossal Crap Email From a Dude, BULLDOG's whole note reveals why Facebook confessions — and indeed, public confessions in general — are a really bad idea for most people. First, and most obviously, they can end up on blogs, where people who have no right or reason to know about your life will be able to point and laugh at it. Some dude's personal foibles, no matter how egregious, really are not "for the world to know," no matter how easy it may now be to broadcast them. And relatedly, confessing one's sins on Facebook makes them seem more important than they are. Morality tale? Flawed American hero!? BULLDOG's just a guy who made some really bad decisions (and, if you believe his mistress, also committed some crimes) — he's nobody's hero, and nobody would have known anything about him had he not taken to Facebook to share his sordid story.
It used to be that only public figures had access to public forums, so theirs were the only mea culpas and bullshit fauxpologies we had to hear. But one side effect of the semi-public nature of the Internet is that everybody can act like their sins are worthy of public consumption. Memo to BULLDOG: they're not. And in an age when it's all too easy to inflict our own pain on other people, maybe it's time for all of us to check our internal privacy controls.
Image via Wojciech Burda/Shutterstock.com.