It’s important to understand that when you interact with others on a social media platform (outside of private messages, of course), that the interaction is in the public sphere. It’s an easy idea to overlook; the privacy of our offices and bedrooms stands in ironic contrast to reality: using social media is the digital equivalent of carrying out a conversation in a crowded amphitheater, where individuals have to take center stage and the spotlight to speak, but all can observe anonymously.
I’ve gathered a quick (and incomplete) list of ways that social media has meaningfully impacted our lives. This list, in actuality, should be much longer and each entry could be incredibly detailed. Social media makes a much larger impact than can be adequately discussed within a single article. Instead, this list is to simply give a little perspective about how social media has changed the ways in which we interact with one another:
1. There is increasingly less distinction between our personal, public, and professional lives.
Think for a moment how you would react if your boss wanted to be your Facebook friend. The popularity of social media alone has created conversations and situations that you might not expect but want to be prepared for. Are you “friends” with your co-workers? Many professionals in my network adhere to a strict “I-won’t-be-your-friend-on-Facebook-until-we’re-no-longer-a-part-of-the-same-organization” policy to avoid awkward situations. While I’ve taken to employing this policy myself, it’s important to remember that even if you are not directly connected to a professional contact, you may very well share online acquaintances.
2. Making an Impression v. 1.5
While many candid social situations allow for a genuine first impression, if that impression generated interest in either party, it’s reasonable to expect that at least one will look the other up online. I’ve sat in rooms where women have discussed potential suitors while viewing their profile pages or where men have gauged their interest for a woman they’ve just met based on the contents of her photo albums. I’ve come to refer to these post meet evaluations as “Impression 1.5." Whether or not this kind of investigation is appropriate has been discussed elsewhere; I’ll simply acknowledge the idea and reiterate that making a great impression online is as important as ever.
3. Post break-up stalking
Think of how you interact with an ex-boyfriend or girlfriend after you’ve broken up. Would you be surprised if I told you that “Facebook Stalking,” as our generation calls it, is a common occurrence in these situations? While professionals have explicitly recommended against this practice, it undoubtedly occurs (and frequently).
4. White lies must be maintained across all social networks
Or, at the very least, lies must be told in a way that your alibi is consistent against your actual plans. For instance, if you decline an invitation on the grounds of not feeling well or the desire to have a quiet night at home, you might be in trouble if someone’s phone checks you in to a popular bar or restaurant while you’re supposedly resting. The same goes for calling in to work or missing class on account of illness. As usual, honesty is the best policy – and not just because social networks have made indirectly lying about your whereabouts and activities more difficult.
As social media evolves, the nuances and minutia of how it impacts our lives will continue to evolve. Thankfully, the web is also replete with information about how to successfully manage social media to your advantage. And, while it may be impossible to completely disconnect today, I can speak for and am an advocate of generous breaks.