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When millennials run for office, having grown up online may be their saving grace

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Decades-old games of racist dress-up may have destroyed multiple political careers this past week, as news broke that not one but two of Virginia’s top elected officials — Gov. Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark R. Herring — had appeared in blackface years ago. Though neither has resigned, the message in the backlash has been clear: Actions have consequences, and old racist yearbook pictures can and will be used to hold public figures to account. Others may soon learn that the hard way: On Thursday, the Virginian-Pilot reported that the state Senate majority leader had edited a 1968 yearbook that “features a host of racist photos and slurs, including blackface.”

Soon after I joined Facebook as a high school freshman in 2006, I received a stern warning from my parents and my school’s guidance counselors: Everything you post on the Internet is there forever. If you want to eventually get into college and have a job, you should be careful what you put online. Theoretically, the things we did online as kids might keep us from realizing our adult goals. The University of Chicago warns students that social media posts can hurt their employment prospects, since “people you’ve never met can view those postings and judge you for them.” The Wall Street Journal similarly writes that “companies are scouring job candidates’ online personas for racist and other red-flag comments.”

[There’s no such thing as privacy on the Internet anymore]

The corollary to this is that, while boomer and Gen-X politicians may have pasts full of ugly secrets that are nevertheless difficult to uncover (such as yearbook entries), millennial aspirants to office have chronicled their whole lives in timelines that can go........

© Washington Post