Thoughts on Social Media: The Consequences of Sharing Everything

As I mentioned in my post last week, I have a lot of thoughts on social media, especially as someone who has grown up when it was starting to become more widely used.

I remember in 8th grade (so this is around 2007-2008…ish), a friend of mine made a Myspace page for me, as I didn’t want to make it myself. She prompted me to check it out, and from there, my use of social media began. Freshman year of high school, Myspace became unpopular for my age group, and I got a Facebook page. Then, during my freshman year of college, I started using Snapchat, and in junior year I got a Twitter to use for one of my Marketing classes. Since then, I’ve added Instagram to my portfolio of social media, although I mainly use it for this blog, and rarely post anything on my personal account.

Generally, I’ve never been obsessed with being on social media, or at least posting anything on any of my personal accounts. I never was into Vine (I think this was mainly because it was popular for high schoolers when I was in college), and even though I watch YouTube and have posted some videos, I don’t really comment on other videos or interact with people directly on it. That’s why I find the world of social media so interesting, especially for teenagers who have grown up during a time when social media has been constantly in their life, and it’s more widely used than before.

I also want to add that social media isn’t a doom and gloom experience for everyone. You can obviously go on social media and find enjoyment in meme accounts, or comedy TikTok’s; there’s nothing wrong with that. However, it’s easy to get recommended content you don’t necessarily want, especially on TikTok. There is also a lack of regulating content on TikTok that’s a major issue, even if the post clearly breaks community guidelines.

Although this post started out as mainly a continuation of a point I mentioned from last week’s post, I’ve watched some videos from Youtuber’s criticizing TikTok and the content it allows on its platform. They’re very interesting videos, and I’ll link them below, as I highly recommend checking them out:

 

 

 

I find the critiques about TikTok interesting, because it brings up a point which I remember being drilled into my head when I was younger and social media was first becoming popular:

Everything you post online is easy for anyone to access, from strangers to future employers. Even if you have private accounts, it’s easy for people who follow you on these accounts to share it with the public at large.

One story that has stayed with me all these years is the story of a teacher who lost her job, simply because her Facebook profile picture was her holding a beer in one hand, and a glass of wine in the other. She wasn’t drinking either of them, just holding them up and smiling. A parent found the teacher’s profile, and complained about the picture, which ultimately led her to being fired.

There are many similar stories about teachers who have lost their jobs over social media blunders, but honestly no employee in any industry is truly safe from the consequences of their social media posts. One of the most infamous cases is that of Justine Sacco, the PR Executive from IAC, who posted the following tweet while on her way to South Africa:

“Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!”

As we all know, even though she had less than two hundred followers, the tweet made its way around the world as she flew there, unaware of how the Tweet was gaining traction. By the time she landed, she received multiple messages, including one from her manager, informing Sacco that she was fired.

So, after all these instances of people being fired from social media posts, why is it that there are still many teens nowadays not aware of the consequences of posting on social media?

To a certain extent, it’s easy to forget that when you’re a teenager, it’s hard to think of the long term consequences of your actions. As is perfectly summed up by the University of Michigan:

“It is normal for adolescents to have a sense of being uniquely invincible, to have an “it will never happen to me” mind-set. This way of thinking may limit their ability to assess situations, risks, and future consequences. As a result, they may engage in risky behaviors and test authority.”

Even then, with some of the content being posted online (such as the racist or sexist TikToks, along with the ones perpetuating unhealthy perceptions of mental illness) that was mentioned in the videos linked above, goes beyond just that. It makes us question what exactly are we teaching future generations about these topics, about what is okay and not okay to do/say. We also need to realize that there will always be people, whether they’re teenagers or not, who will say things just to appear “edgy” or “cool” or for the shock value. These things tend to be shared more, as people may want to spread awareness about how this isn’t right, but at the same time, it just boosts the popularity of the post, and a person’s “clout” (I felt old just saying that… and I’m only 25 😂😂).

This phenomenon of wanting to be popular, or having everyone know your name is nothing new in the grand scheme of  things. The only difference now is that we can now watch more content where the questionable actions of teenagers is on display, and not only that, but it’s easier to share. Not only is it easier to share, there are more people willing to go to any means to “cancel” people over this content.

Before I continue, I want to take a quick minute to talk about cancel culture, and its consequences. In my opinion, I think that people shouldn’t be canceled if they are able to own up to their mistakes, and learn from them, as none of us are perfect. We are all still learning how to be better people, no matter if we’re 15, 35, or even 85. Growth and learning never stops at any age. HOWEVER, I think it’s important to call someone out on harmful thoughts and behavior (such as racism, sexism, etc.). At a certain point though, if someone repeats this behavior, no matter how many times its been brought up, and they aren’t making an effort to change, it may be time to reconsider who you follow on social media. You cannot force someone to do something they don’t want to do, especially when it comes to putting in the effort to change. In the end, people are only going to change if they are willing to change.

Now that I’ve said my piece on that, let’s get back to the actual post!

Even when I was first on Myspace and Facebook, people may have posted questionable things, but at the time, there wasn’t as much of a culture in sharing things to gain “clout” (Yep, still hate that word 😂). Especially right now with COVID-19, everyone is spending more time online and especially on social media, and with everyone being more isolated and able to spend time creating content as well as viewing said content, the more likely a chance of something being shared.

So the real question is, how do we help alleviate this issue, especially during this period of time?

Bringing awareness to the consequences of sharing and creating content just to become popular is incredibly important. Talking about your own experience with social media, and sharing videos like the one’s above can show how even though we seem to be lecturing old farts, we understand better than one might think. Especially when it comes to milennials, a fair amount of our generation grew up during the rise of social media, and witnessed firsthand the mistakes of those older than us. They made us realize the impact of not being mindful on social media. There’s a reason why so many people create accounts that don’t include their real name, or even a picture of themselves; for protection and privacy. Obviously, this is something trolls do as well so that they can spew whatever garbage they want anonymously, but I know plenty of people who want to retain some form of privacy while spending time online.

In the end, all I’m saying is we should be mindful of what we post online. Even if we think something we post is going to stay private, it’s way too easy for our content to be shared, and have real life consequences. Take some time off from social media and I don’t know, do a puzzle, take a walk around the neighborhood, or even try creating something just for yourself, and no one else. As we all know, spending too much time on social media can affect our mental health, and in inadvertently through what we post, it can affect those who follow us. It’s easy right now to get sucked into spending hours online, as we can’t really leave the house to go out and hang with friends or go for a hike, but we just have to get creative with how we spend our time now.

To finish this off, ask yourself:

Is there a hobby you’ve been wanting to try out, but have never had the time to before?

Are there at home workouts you’ve been meaning to try out, but haven’t?

Are there topics you’ve been wanting to research and learn more about?

It’s difficult, as we’re in an unprecedented situation that has been affecting us, mentally, emotionally, or even physically. Don’t be afraid to reach out to friends or family, or if you’re in a position to do so, look into online therapy. Do what you need to do to take care of yourself, as long as it’s not harming yourself or anyone else.


Next week, I want to talk about the impact of social media on mental health, as it’s also something I’ve been thinking about a lot recently. For now though, that’s all I have for today, thanks for reading, and I will talk to you all later!

-Erin 🙂

Medium

Prose

Twitter: @ENordhof

 

 

Sources:

How Adolescent Thinking Develops. (n.d.). Retrieved May 8, 2020, from https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/te7261

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