If you were in our youth group, you’d probably overhear me having a conversation with one or more of our students about what they post onto social media. Why? Because I feel it needs to be talked about as much as possible. You’ve heard the whole the-Internet-is-taking-over-our-lives-and-we’re-experiencing-more-bullying-and-anxiety spiel. Yes. I would 100% agree with you, but that’s not what I am talking about with our students half of the time. I don’t think that will change overnight, at least not right away.
When I pull a student aside, or make a general comment about social media, I often talk to them about their digital tattoos. Because that’s what their Instagram/Facebook/Twitter/Vine/SnapChat/Pinterest posts are. Digital tattoos that are hard to remove, if at all.
Last night, I came across this article about a young PR Executive, Justine Sacco, who tweeted as she was boarding a direct flight from NYC to South Africa on a business trip. Here’s what her tweet stated: “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!” It’s VERY clear that this is highly offensive on many levels. Even though she had a little over 400 followers (which is a little over the following of your standard high school or college student), her post set off a viral wildfire. #HasJustineLandedYet landed in the top 3 hastags while her flight was still in air. When her flight landed, she found herself being fired from her job and a notification center full of retaliation-all because of one tweet that took about 10 seconds to post. OUCH! That’s a big digital tattoo she gave herself, which eventually led her to deleting all of her social media accounts, and essentially removing herself from the Internet.
Justine, like so many of us, find ourselves freely posting any and everything we think to our various social media platforms. In fact this morning I read about what my friends ate for breakfast, saw the battle wounds of a mountain bike accident, saw posts of several friends who made a Starbucks run, and even watched a video someone posted on their love for Hanson (yes, I have a friend that loves Hanson). Pretty harmless, right? But what happens when we create habits of not using a filter when we post to social media? What if we find ourselves lonely, angry, hurt, or just bored? What do we post then? Probably something we’ll eventually regret.
More often than I’d like, I look through my various feeds and I see words of hurt and posts from people who clearly weren’t thinking about how it would affect the person on the other end of their comment/picture/video. If people like Justine can get fired for their job for a thoughtless post, we should be talking about how we can protect ourselves from making the same mistake. Was Justine wrong? Yes. Is she different than us? Maybe not as much as we’d like to admit.
As you continue to engage on social media, please remember that it’s a form of technology and technology is amoral, meaning, it is neither good nor bad. The thing that dictates whether or not it used good or bad is the user. That’s us. If we want to complain about technology, we must first remember that we are pointing our finger at ourselves. Not sure how to navigate through whether you should post or not? Here’s some good tips to consider:
• Are you’re hurt, angry, or lonely? If yes, hit delete and open up your journal. Tell God, he can handle it.
• Would the post offend someone? If yes, hit delete. If you’re not sure, hit delete. Humor that is at the expense of someone else is cheap humor. In the words of Lady Grantham, “Vulgarity is no substitute for wit.”
• Are you showing a certain part of your body that shouldn’t be the focus of your post? If yes (and deep, deep down we all know what should and should not be shown), hit delete. Ladies & Gentlemen, this includes SnapChat. You may never realize how fast someone can take a screen shot until you see that photo on your mother’s phone in a text message sent from the mother of your boyfriend or girlfriend.
• Would you be embarrassed if your parents or grandparents read/saw it? If yes, hit delete. If no, post away! My 90 year old grandpa, Poppy, is on Facebook. Every time we talk on the phone, he ALWAYS comments about my posts on there. It’s actually great to know he cares about what I care about!
• Would it encourage someone? PLEASE POST IT. Post things like this often! If there’s one thing people need, it’s a word of encouragement.
Being a marketing major, I love Instagram/Facebook/Twitter/Vine/SnapChat/Pinterest/Wordpress. But as we now know, we’re all susceptible to the pitfalls that can come from using these platforms. Because a harsh reality is, the world is becoming increasingly more and more connected and that means the line between our personal lives and professional lives is starting to look a little blurry. Will we get it all right? Probably not, but hopefully with these tips we will learn and grow together in such a way that we will set ourselves up for success and spread words of encouragement and excitement in the digital abyss.
Act Justly. Love Mercy. Walk Humbly. | Mendolin