BY SIMON EDDS
Despite almost all of my friends jumping on board, it wasn’t until early 2008 that I finally joined Facebook (and after reviewing my first few posts, I didn’t enjoy the experience very much). But sure enough, as my list of friends increased, so did my interest in this social media app. By the end of the first month I was hooked; posting personal photos, writing candid and cheeky comments, liking all manner of things I stumbled upon. Privacy settings were the last thing on my mind.
Fast forward five years to 2013: social media is all around us now, and even this self-confessed technophobe is a frequent user of all things Instagram, Twitter and Soundcloud. Additionally, I have a YouTube account, an IMDb profile, a few WordPress blogs, and I am still a daily user of Facebook, mostly via my phone.
Since stumbling across the “psychic” video below, and more recently following a teacher’s advice, I’ve started thinking more seriously about the long term implications social media can have on an individual.
Setting your profiles to private doesn’t necessarily mean your information can’t be found and shared with a global audience.
So, over the past week, I’ve revisited every digital footprint I’ve left across Facebook. Every comment, every photo, every like I’ve ever clicked – everything. Apart from being an incredibly slow and boring process, it’s also been a bit sad taking this trip down memory lane and editing the last five years of my life. Deleting comments I’ve made, which may be offensive to someone, or seem a little bit controversial. Untagging myself from party photos just because my eyes had rolled too far back in one shot, or I’m pulling a fake spew-face in another. Requesting friends remove certain things they’re posted about me, while explaining that I haven’t gone privacy mad. Reviewing my privacy settings and taking more control over who sees what. All of these private jokes from years past suddenly don’t feel so private anymore, and could be taken out of context by the wrong person, which could escalate into unwanted public attention for all the wrong reasons.
If you’re not prepared to wear it on a t-shirt in Martin Place, don’t post it online.
A lesson could be learnt from Australian sporting celebrities. Stephanie Rice, who lost a large sponsorship deal with Jaguar after posting a homophobic comment on Twitter; and Shane Warne, who angered his fans by promoting online gambling through his personal social media pages.
In order to avoid such social media disasters, we must learn to monitor what we share online and resist the urge to say anything negative about anyone, because some day it may come back to bite you.
I cringe to think about the generations who don’t remember a time before the Internet. They have enjoyed access to a global audience, to post whatever their angsty, teenage minds can think of, without fully understanding the repercussions of their own digital actions.
Remember: there is always someone watching online. Chances are, they’re on your profile right now.