You’re too young right now to use social media, and who knows what that medium will even look like in a few years, when you are old enough to use it. I have a feeling, however, that our everyday lives will be made even more public as the years go on, and if that’s the case, I have some words of caution.
What you say and do online is a snapshot of who you are. It may not be the most fair snapshot, but it does tell people a lot about you. I have some friends on Facebook whom I don’t know very well in real life, and yet it’s strange how much I know about them: what their interests are, what their family is like, where they’re going on their next vacation, etc.
But mainly, I can tell what kind of attitude they have. Writing little observations about your day reveals a lot about how you look at life, and most people view life either positively or negatively. There’s little gray area.
It’s one thing to gripe about the weather, traffic or when your favorite sports team lets you down. But many people go a step further than that, using sites like Facebook and Twitter to complain about their job, their family, their spouse… They view social media as if it’s the old-school journal, venting about everything that ticks them off and assuming that, because it was written behind a computer screen, it’s okay. But it’s not okay. Because people see those posts and can be hurt by them. Plus, the person writing the complaints is only tarnishing their own reputation. Most people don’t read those posts and sympathize with that person; instead they make a character judgment about them. We tend to think the chronic complainers are sad, bitter curmudgeons.
Believe me, you don’t want to be known as a curmudgeon.
There is no line between the Real World and the Internet World these days. It’s all one big jumbled mess, and what happens in one world can greatly affect what happens in the other. Which means you need to take the high road in both. Don’t write anything online that you wouldn’t say directly to a person’s face, and don’t complain just for the sake of complaining. Social media was not intended for that purpose. There are some things you simply need to keep to yourself. If you have to vent, do so in a private format, not for all the world to see.
Before posting anything online, ask yourself two questions: 1) “Will this hurt someone else?” and 2) “Will this hurt my reputation?” If the answer to either question is yes, then step away from the computer. Be smart, and be dedicated to using social media only for good. (Or at least for a little harmless entertainment. Like sharing this hilarious video.)