It is so very easy and very tempting to write something, anything, on social media sites, but before you update your status you should think twice before you post.
Think about how your messages, photos, shared posts, jokes or amusing anecdotes are going to be received by all your ‘friends’. It’s tempting to post an update, respond to other posts or to comment on something that’s been covered in the media, but before you start take a moment to think about what you are going to say and how others may respond.
What is amusing to one person could be offensive to another, which is why it is so important to self-edit, to the point of even deleting what you were going to post. This doesn’t mean that you should be afraid of being controversial or speaking your mind, but is it really suitable for an online audience and could it provoke an unpleasant backlash?
Posting anything on social media sites cannot easily be undone, especially if your latest post has already been read or shared. Of course you can delete posts and updates, but you can’t be sure that it hasn’t been recorded as a screenshot (which caught out many users of a certain app, where messages self-delete after a very short period of time).
Skeletons in your online wardrobe
Perhaps the acid test for any social media post is this: would you be happy for a complete stranger, an employer, a manager or relative to have access to what you have posted? Would you be prepared to say the same thing in a face-to-face situation? But, you ask, why does any of this matter? It’s all throw-away fluff. The problem is that many people still don’t realise that prospective employers will trawl through social media sites to see what you have posted; even items posted historically could still come back to haunt you years later and damage your chances of securing a job or getting promoted. Negatively perceived posts could also affect how you are treated by friends and family, partners and spouses.
It is also very useful to be aware of why so many people are drawn to post so often. One of the reasons is because it triggers a release of dopamine, which gives you a feeling of elation and people enjoy the feeling they get as they interact online. Each time we post or receive a response we get a dopamine ‘hit’ and this is also the same for emails (and part of the reason why Blackberries were called Crackberries, because of the addictive effect their usage had on our brains).
The other reason why we’re keen to ‘post and be damned’ is because we’re sitting in front of a screen in the comfort of our homes or offices. We feel untouchable and as such we’re far less worried about the impact of our posts and updates than we would if we were face-to-face.
With regard to just how much personal information we share online, I think we’re all still very naive. Put it this way: if I asked to see your family photo albums, to see your diary movements, to know how you feel, to know what you think of your employer and generally provide me with so much information that if I were so inclined I would know when it would be safe to call around to empty your house, what would you say?
You would rightly tell me to take a running jump, but you are giving away so much information, not just to your friends, but to anyone who cares to look at your social media profile. And with GPS tracking your whereabouts is no longer a secret. We only have to consider what happened in Paris recently to Ms Kardashian, who (as I understand things) gives out so much personal information on social media that it didn’t take much to work out where she would be on a certain day.
Social media does offer many positive ways to connect and re-connect with friends and family, but we all need to realise that there is a potential downside to this technology.
We can’t put the genie back into the bottle, but we can be a little more careful how we instruct the genie.
For more information about dopamine and social media, follow this link.