Twitter is a fantastic social media tool. Anyone can use it and you don’t have to be an IT guru or SEO whizz in order to get your voice or business heard in an increasingly crowded forum. However social media brings its own level of responsibility and internal monologue checks. In the past several years I have learnt to ask a useful question of myself before I post anything online.
Am I comfortable saying this to someone’s face or in a room full of people?
I learned a useful lesson several years ago after I wrote a blog sharing details of a night out I’d been on with a friend. At the time I didn’t see any harm in it. In fact I thought it showcased my ‘amazing wit’ and ‘sophisticated style’ of writing. The reality was that it just made me look like an insensitive moron who didn’t stop to consider whether or not the person I was writing about was comfortable about me writing about them. (Look how sophisticated that sentence was!)
Why we should use social media responsibly
Social media is full of people sharing their opinions along with some of the most intimate details of their lives. I used to do the same. I got sucked into the web of seeing how often my posts were liked or shared by people I either barely knew or hadn’t physically spoken to in years. It’s addictive! A while back I realised (after I’d logged into Facebook for the umpteenth time in an hour) I was wasting a lot of my time. Instead of completing work and actually going outside, I was checking out which of my friends had liked my latest update or post. I would go on rants about news that had annoyed me or people that irked me before I realised how easy it was to do this online instead of to someone’s face.
I’m not saying we should censor ourselves completely online; the web has opened up communication in a way no one thought possible 20 years ago. But we should always try and ask ourselves what we would be comfortable saying in a room in front of people. Remember that what you post online often stays online even if you think you’ve deleted it. If you’re comfortable sharing EVERYTHING about your life and SAYING ANYTHING YOU WANT on social media than go for it. Just remember that there are always consequences to what you write and share online…good and bad. Do you really want to be remembered for some comment you made or picture you shared on Facebook 6 years ago that seems embarrassing now?
Think of it like this; say you’ve called someone you hate a ‘see-you-next-Tuesday’ on Facebook. Would you be comfortable saying that to their face? There are probably a few smart arses reading this who will say ‘Yep! I would.’ But in all reality they are in the minority and most of us wouldn’t do it.
Where the dark side can take you
Facebook and Twitter and other social media platforms can be very useful tools. They provide me with an opportunity to keep in touch with friends who live far away and network with professionals I want to work with. However there is a darker side that I have nearly succumbed to on several occasions (I can hear Darth Vader breathing behind me). Under the nice bright bridge of the social media rainbow there are trolls lurking ready to pull you into their grubby little world of bullying and pointless argument.
For example; Twitter is full of some really nice and genuine people. Twitter is also full of nasty malicious people who for some reason have nothing better to do then spend their time saying horrible things that 9 times out of 10 they wouldn’t have the guts to say to someone in public. I’ve seen users say things that are racist, bigoted, sexist and just plain mean in order to get some attention. It is terrifying and as we know has caused people to commit suicide.
Trolls are not clever and they’re not cool. They’re just cowards and creeps. Which is why it is even more important that we exercise a little caution on what we say online (Donald Trump should pay attention). Privacy controls are improving and it is possible to block malicious users though they can still find a way to stalk you like a creep.
Sharing is caring…responsibly
Social media is a day to day reality. Like it or loathe it, it’s moved into our lives and put its feet up on our sofas. It shows no signs of leaving. This means we need to exercise some control when we use it (just like I try to do when I’m tempted to binge watch Star Trek instead of doing work that needs doing – damn you Netflix!).
Remember that what you say and share online can be found by anyone who looks hard enough for it. What you say can affect your chances of finding a new job or finding a date. It can also hurt your friends or family without you even realising.
The next time you’re online and your fingers are twitching to tweet, ready to launch into a witty diatribe about what colour a celebrity’s pants are or what someone you met in a bar the other night was like, or how you didn’t like your Mum’s cooking, remember to ask yourself:
Would I say this in a room full of people?
You never know who might read what you’ve written.