Social networking offers us the opportunity to communicate rapidly and effectively, to disseminate ideas almost a quickly as they form, to facilitate change, and to share ourselves with the world around us.
We have learned that social networking allows for the fastest spread of information. It has given us a new way to interact with one another, to rekindle old relationships, to maintain current ones, and to meet new people. Social networking helps grow our business networks, bringing qualified employees to small businesses and large corporations alike. Some say it may even improve the quality of our life, helping people to feel more connected to their communities and spreading positive messages all around. Its good for the economy, it brings about social and political change, and allows those small voices to be heard.
But according to the rules of nature and of this universe, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. For every benefit social networking brings to our society, a disadvantage comes along for the ride. Information spreads quickly, but it can often be false and misleading. There is a lack of privacy. Social networking can cause stress in relationships and cause people to waste time. Traditional human interaction and face to face time has been forever altered. Cyberbullying, sexting, social isolation, copyright infringement, hacking, identity theft, and viruses are part of our daily lives now more than ever before.
And then there is the dark and ever-looming, ineffable digital footprint that will be left in cyberspace millennia after you have vanished from this realm.
Most of us are aware of the trail we leave online. The problem? The nature of social media is that most of what we want to share is highly personal, but divulging personal information is what leaves us vulnerable now and down the road.
So where do we draw the line between what is socially acceptable to share and what needs to remain in the dark corners of our mind or behind closed doors?
As counselors we should have real conversations like these with our students, discussing the importance of creating and maintaining a "personal brand." What image do we want the world to have of our brand? What will college admissions officers and future employers think of our image? Will they like our product?
I don't know if this issue is one that follows a strict set of rules or guidelines for as we are ever evolving beings so is our culture and society and along with it ours rules for social norms and behaviors. What is taboo today may be perfectly acceptable to the generation that follows.
With that said, there are two ways to approach the issue: Either think twice, use caution, walk softly, and ask yourself if your grandmother would be okay with what she just saw you post online OR be proud of who you are and own everything that you say, do and post, from now until the day your grandchildren login for their first time!