Telling stories

The horror of Facebook: should you flee social media?

Posted by southwrite on August 31, 2009

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Perusing your friend’s Facebook page you may have come across the things that caused you to stop and think, “I don’t know if I would have posted that!” Like those camera phone photos of your buddy drunk, unconscious and a funny picture painted on his face or that near topless shot of your friend’s daughter. Then there are the arguments in which perfectly normal people are suddenly transformed into on-line Fox News screamers.

A great deal of ink (both real and virtual) has been spilled recently bemoaning how social media is souring real friendships, wasting time, and even getting people fired. Some are telling us there’s even an exodus of folks fleeing the site out of boredom or horror. One former user compares the site to the repressive communist regime in North Korea while selling T-shirts with the message “Shut your Facebook!” (He confides that his mom told him Facebook was the work of the devil.)

If you’re like me you probably find all this just a little bit overwrought. Like every other “new thing” Facebook – and other social media for that matter – is beginning to mature and for some that means they smell rot. People who spent hours doing status updates, viewing videos and filling out inane quizzes to determine “what Twilight character they resemble” are suddenly feeling bored and maybe a little cheated.

Facebook and all virtual relationships aren’t the same as real live personal relationships, but in some cases we might all be better off if we acted as if they were. Then we probably wouldn’t be saying and posting some of the things that get us into trouble.

Think before you Facebook

Behind the protective shield of an internet connection many people tend to say things to people that they’d think twice about before uttering in person. Words can be hurtful, both to the feeling of your friends and to your economic wellbeing if intemperate comments are directed at an employer. While you may be able to plausibly deny an off hand comment made over the water cooler, Facebook posts live on forever.

Companies these days aren’t just looking at resumes, but they’re also searching the web to dig up information on perspective hires. One study found that 45% of employers now screen social media sites. The report goes on to say that, “thirty-five percent of employers reported they have found content on social networking sites that caused them not to hire the candidate.”

Privacy ain’t what it used to be.

Of course many people are aware that vast amounts of information about us is already held by large companies and perhaps the government as well. Credit card firms carefully monitor your purchases and make judgments about your credit worthiness based on where you shop. The frugal woman who makes a few buys at a thrift store can find her credit line reduced because an algorithm deems people who shop there “high risk.”  

There’s only a small amount of information that you can really control  – like your daily Facebook status update. That means don’t create situations that you’re likely to regret. I’m not saying everyone should be frightened into silence on the web. No, far from it. Just think about whether you’re saying something that you want to stand up for down the road. A well reasoned defense of healthcare reform is one thing. A video of you drunk and dancing with a lamp shade on your head is quite another. A political essay can say you think about issues even to those who might disagree. A lampshade will only make viewers question whether you think at all.

One Response to “The horror of Facebook: should you flee social media?”

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    The horror of Facebook: should you flee social media? « Southwrite

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