As a child, I remember the warnings from parents and teachers:
Don’t share too much online and keep your personal information private – you never know who you’re talking with.
Now, though, the warnings are almost laughable. A generation has grown up with the world wide web at their fingertips and social media connecting them with friends and followers all over the world.
Being able to tweet a thought, share a photo, or message a friend at the blink of an eye has led to people being more open about their thoughts and feelings. Now when friends separate after high school or college, they can keep in touch easier (and don’t get me started on how easy it is to do a group project when you don’t even need to physically meet up but can still all jot notes and ideas down on a page together).
Underneath the wonderful openness that social media has created, however, lies a problem:
When everything is shared and documented on the internet, then anyone can find it.
Starting a new job now means sharing your resume, ideals, hopes and dreams….and often your Linked-In and social media handles.
For me, graduating college also meant changing my Facebook name so that employers or colleagues couldn’t look me up on a whim. I don’t think I have anything to hide, per say, but the thought of my boss knowing about every little detail of my life is something that is a little disconcerting to me.
That being said, I also know that I’m not the person I used to be. I’ve grown and changed from my childhood and my ideals and future path are nothing that I could have dreamed of.
Growing up, I turned to journals and diaries to document my thoughts and grievances instead of the slow, dial-up internet that we were so impressed by during the 90s and early 00s. Looking back on some of my entries, I can see how far I’ve grown and changed from my childhood ideals – I’m proud of how far I’ve come, how open and accepting I now am. How I’ve taken the challenges and trials life has handed me and come out the other side a better individual.
But for those who turn to social media to share their thoughts, their past-self can now be their biggest hurdle.
I’m sure you’ve heard of the James Gunn ‘controversial’ firing (basically his past self used social media as a provocative source, to rile people up with outrageous messages, and it came back to bite him when opponents brought those messages to Disney and they let him go to maintain their family-friendly brand).
Honestly, I can’t blame Disney for their actions.
A company has full right to remove an employee that doesn’t follow or fit in to the companies guidelines and policy in order to protect their image. If they don’t, then they can face backlash by other employees or the public for ignoring troubling behavior.
Many popular stars, both on and off the internet are also dealing with this when old messages resurface without context.
The problem was, when I was growing up, controversy and outrage were such a huge thing in comedy. Taking it too far was the norm because it made people morbidly interested in what you were saying. Even now, the ever popular Cards Against Humanity basically thrives off of this dark sense of humor and it’s sold just down from kids and family board games in many stores.
No one is perfect.
Honestly, social media isn’t even the problem here. There are politicians being accused based on their past actions from before the internet was even a thing. The internet has only made it easier for people to see any dirty laundry you may have.
So: do people need to be held accountable? Yes.
It doesn’t matter if it was the prevailing thought of the time, or that it was the ‘in’ thing to do.
Unfortunately, this is also where it gets tricky.
If you grow up in a sheltered area where everyone only thinks one way, you’re not going to know that it’s ‘wrong’. Why would you? You’re supposed to trust the adults around you to teach you what’s right after all. Even with education and guidance, it can be hard to look at yourself and say, ‘I’m wrong’ or ‘this is wrong’.
Unlearning a bias or ideology can take years or even an entire lifetime to overcome.
Real talk – I still struggle with fighting the person I used to be. I grew up not really understanding the LGBTQ+ Community or why you’d ‘choose’ it. People who weren’t like me were ‘different’. Hell – I found a journal saying that it was the end-times because Obama was elected as our President.
Yeah. I’m not proud of that.
But I am proud of who I’ve become:
A proud member of the LGBTQ+ Community (Asexual Division) fighting for equality and feminism for all.
A proud wife of the most perfect woman in the world.
A strong Democrat focused on finding a way to help those in need.
A lover of world travel to explore the ways that people live their lives and the history and beauty of our great planet Earth.
So maybe before you send off your next message into the depths of the internet, give yourself a little bit of time to think about whether or not it’s worth it.
You never know who could read it later – that disappointed party may be you.