Late last night, I got some news that upset me so much I couldn’t sleep. Unable to really do anything about it, I decided to write it out and what started as a potential blogpost about the selfishness of people turned into a full out rant that got way too specific for posting. Yes, I do feel better now. But it got me to thinking about the airing of dirty laundry on Facebook and other social media. How much is too much and where do we really draw the line? It’s a personal choice to be sure, of how much of your life do you put on the Internet, but then there’s also the question of decency and respect for others involved.
Sometimes I post more than I feel comfortable with later when my temper has cooled off, but I keep most of my private life off the Internet. When I’m mad at someone in my family, so mad that steam is coming out of my ears, I don’t take to Facebook with a status update that blasts them out of the water. Truth be told, it’s nobody else’s business and I think on some level, most people do realize that. But when you’re mad and there’s no one there to take it out on, you need some kind of an outlet. As a writer, I admit that beating up the keyboard can be very therapeutic. Also, misery just loves company, as we all know. We want someone else to recognize that we’re mad or hurt and to sympathize. I think that’s why when someone posts something very personal, and someone responds to point out that they are in the wrong, they immediately jump to the defense with “Well, it isn’t your business anyway. I didn’t ask your opinion.” But if someone agrees with them, they feel a certain amount of validation and comfort, in a weird roundabout way.
Facebook has become the very public diary of millions. I can remember one of the first times that writing something out has made me feel better. I have no idea how old I was but I had a diary in a blue three ring binder. Something or someone had made me really angry, so I wrote about it in the private pages under my nightlight. My anger slowly dissipated and I really felt better. I think that’s what the appeal of Facebook is, in a funny way. Plus, there’s people to agree with you or argue, and there’s a certain addiction to that kind of feedback, for better or worse.
Even if it’s not Facebook, some people have forums they go to when they’re down in the dumps and need sympathy or just confirmation that they’re not crazy and it is everyone else. The scary part is that if the right person decided to, they could dig up every single thing about you on the Internet. It’s like we’ve entered the age where we are willingly laying ourselves bare to the world in the desperate search for camaraderie and validation, but at the expense of judgment from employers and our own family. Nothing is private. The right person can hack anything, break every password you ever spent five minutes making up. Hell, a story recently broke about someone posting on Mark Zuckerburg’s private wall on Facebook, just to prove that he could.
So where do we draw the line? How do we teach the next generation to use caution in social media? What you post can and often will bite you in the ass, but when you’re 15, you either don’t care or you just feel invincible. Nothing can touch you, right? So far from the truth.
While we’re on this subject of privacy on the Internet, can I just make the comment that social media has developed its own superstitions? Every time you see a group of people on your friends list reposting that “Share this status update to keep your wall private” message, it’s almost like a ritual we do “just in case.” Like when we draw x’s across our windshields when a black cat crosses our path.
Think about it for a minute.