There is a strange phenomenon going on in regard to the Internet. It seems folks think they can say and do whatever they desire while using the Internet without any repercussions. Don’t be fooled into believing that this is true because it’s not.One should be clear that this is not the case, after reading about the various scandals involving high profile people as well as regular folks. People are losing their jobs because of photos and comments they have posted on their Facebook and MySpace pages. Politicians are resigning after questionable e-mails are discovered. Others are being prosecuted for sending naughty text messages, and the list goes on.Wake up, people! The Internet is not some mysterious, anonymous fantasy world. It is real and the consequences of online behavior also are real. Ask the folks mentioned above!The Internet itself is not an evil place, as some might like to believe. Some people just use the Internet as a means to do questionable things. They do these questionable things with a false sense of anonymity and privacy. But usually, it all comes back to haunt them.Things that occur online are much more permanent and visible than folks might think. In fact, Internet activities are archived in various locations and are traceable if the need arises.For instance, just because a questionable post or e-mail is subsequently deleted, it does not mean that it is gone forever. Ever heard of the Wayback Machine or an e-mail backup?Let me put this all into perspective. Let’s say you write a really mean e-mail to your now-ex-friend. How many copies of that e-mail do you think exists? You probably think two at most, the one you have in your e-mail account and the one the ex-friend receives. Wrong! That is only the minimum.E-mail travels from one place to another but makes several hops from where it originated till the recipient gets it. It’s safe to say that it resides on at least a couple backup locations coming from your service provider’s end and on a couple of backup locations on the receiving provider’s end.There is no telling how many copies are saved in between the hops. Furthermore, who knows how many copies were forwarded on to someone else’s e-mail.From e-mails to social networking posts to chatroom chats and various other online forums and activities, think of it all as an elephant’s memory. Why? Because the Internet does not forget!I am not writing this to scare folks away from the Internet. On the contrary, I just want folks to be responsible Internet citizens. Folks need to stop and think before acting on anything Internet-related. In addition, everyone needs to understand that we all can and will be held accountable for our Internet actions.If you wouldn’t send a copy of a post, e-mail or text message to the most highly regarded person in your life, perhaps you shouldn’t post or send it at all. If you wouldn’t utter the words you posted on the Internet to that person’s face, then don’t do it in cyberspace.No matter how angry one might be at someone, don’t air that kind of personal stuff online. Just as someone can’t take back hurtful words once they are said, one can’t take back stuff that’s been put in cyberspace.Think of things done on the Internet as being done in permanent marker or perhaps etched into stone. Once it’s done, it’s permanently done! No erases, no mulligans.As in real life, what we say and do on the Internet is a direct reflection upon ourselves. What kind of Internet picture are you painting of yourself?E-mail me at email@example.com; fax me at (859) 236-9566; or write me snail mail at The Advocate-Messenger, P.O. Box 149, Danville, KY 40423-0149.