“Social media…future repercussions…blah blah blah. Old people are always nagging about the crapzillion and four things that we’re supposedly going to regret when we’re older. Tattoos, sex, drinking, not studying enough, junk food, scary movies, rollerblading on the trampoline… They harp on stinking everything. And apparently it’s not enough because they just can’t leave Facebook off the list.”
Well, kids, as much as we fogies love to buzz-kill at every possible opportunity, sometimes we have actual reasons behind our rules. And today I’d like to take a moment out of your gaming/chatting/tweeting/tagging time to briefly point out what’s up with our social media nagging.
Here’s the thing: With every single interaction you have online, you are creating and building a virtual profile. You are presenting yourself, or some version of yourself, for the world to see. That image, and everything you contribute to it, is permanent.
As a simple example, you might post a picture of yourself with long hair. A year from now, you may have short hair, but that picture of your long hair still exists and can never be taken back. You assume that posting a new picture of your short hair will supersede the old picture and everyone will know that the new haircut is the current version of you.
That assumption is wrong.
Social media, despite its name, is very impersonal. If you do not have an ongoing face-to-face relationship with someone, then their impression of you will always be a compilation of whatever you’ve presented via the internet. They may acknowledge your haircut, but the old image of the long hair is still part of their perception of you. You think it’s who you were. But once that picture is posted, it is forever part of who you are.
Obviously this goes deeper than your hair.
Think about the things that you contribute to your online image. Everything including foul language, discriminatory “jokes”, compromising photos, scandalous retweets, cyber-bullying, disrespect for authority, the types of people you “like” or “follow”, questionable song lyrics…all of that comprises your cyber persona.
And once it’s out there, you cannot take it back. You cannot limit who sees it or where it goes.
This compiled image is what prospective colleges and employers will see when they check up on you. And they will check up on you. You think you’re going to get an athletic scholarship based on your skill on the field? Not if you’re an on-line tool! You think any company will be blessed to have you representing them? Not if you represent yourself as an idiot on the internet.
You could argue that those things are years away and those people aren’t going to look back this far at your online history. Maybe, maybe not. But there are enough kids representing themselves online responsibly to fill those acceptance lists and job openings. Colleges, scholarship committees and employers only need a mere glimpse of a cyber-moron to dismiss you forever.
Please reserve your debatable hilarity for your face-to-face friendships. Keep it off-line.
Oh, and this: don’t do drugs, save yourself for marriage, and eat vegetables.