At 3 p.m. on a Wednesday afternoon, you decide to check-in on Facebook with a few friends at a local bar that supposedly has great food. You’re skeptical. Your other friend is skeptical, too, because most of the reviews on Yelp are consistently negative (which you don’t trust).
The problem is, you called in sick to work and, unfortunately, your boss is friends with you on Facebook. Even worse, he’s technologically savvy, and he’s just informed you, via a Twitter direct-message, that the two of you “need to talk”.
Now, you’re sweating bullets and have to wait until tomorrow morning to find out what exactly the two of you will be ‘talking’ about. You are cautiously optimistic.
It’s an unlikely but all too common scenario found in the world of social media.
But the worst part is that since social media is always on, it’s also something that we have to be constantly aware of. Not wary, necessarily, but careful of. Because our various social media accounts stand as an extension of us, and not an alternative to us, we want them to reflect what we want others to think of us.
Unfortunately, it can also sometimes make us look like morons.
You see, in the real world, we all have this thing called a “reputation”. Before social media, it wasn’t necessarily something that followed us around. Sure at school, at work and in other separate ‘cliques’ we might have developed particular reputations, but when we stepped outside of those areas, a reputation didn’t really exist, per say.
Now, with social media, our reputations loom over us like a storm cloud. All of our tweets, our Facebook posts, our relationships — all of that is kept track of through our online persona in social media. So, our hundreds of check-ins at the local pub, our flirtatious posts on the walls of others and our angry tweets about how stupid the drivers in this particular town must be — all of those posts are filling an online compendium that does nothing but grant others a negative sense of our character.
So, what that has forced us to do is to toe the line between full disclosure and privacy, hoping to strike a delicate balance between social media intrigue — controversial thoughts and opinions that may rile up debate on our Facebook pages — and real life security. Google+ is beginning to make it possible to vent our rage to only particular circles, but if we wrote it on the web, does it really matter who does or does not see it?
For all of the validation that Facebook or Twitter (among others) may provide, they can do far more harm than they typically do good. The lost jobs and countless destroyed relationships that have come about as a result of social media typically heavily outweigh the positive effects.
But social media is not the devil. It is not set out to destroy our marriages and our professional careers.
Still, it can. And sometimes it will. And for many, it can be deeply frustrating.
The solution? Show some restraint! Seriously. Don’t use Facebook as a medium to vent about your frustration about your job. In a world where we feel we need to be constantly connected, we don’t literally need to be constantly connected. The world will soldier on if it goes a few hours or, heaven forbid, an entire day without our words of wisdom, I can assure you that much.
But use Facebook. Use Twitter. Definitely use Google+. Just don’t necessarily throw caution to the wind. Use that, too. Just ask yourself before you post, “should I really be posting this?” If you can’t honestly answer that question without hesitation, then the answer is most assuredly “no”.