A guide to a strategic social media game

There are many implications that come with sharing content via social media.
Credit: 
Pixbay

The initial vision of the Internet was to build a community of anonymity: a place where you could reinvent yourself. For the most part, this vision collapsed with the advent of social media. 

As people became fixated on constructing profile pages on Myspace and Facebook, visibility became the new law of the Internet.

Whether this visibility is narcissistic or empowering isn’t quite the topic of this article. With such a fixation on visibility, we post streams of intimate details about our lives that are visible to more than just our family and friends.

Today, employers, university administration, selection committees, authorities and strangers can look up your drunken nights and shenanigans.  

In fact, Daniel Trottier, in his research on privacy and Facebook, documented an invasive and under-the-table use of Facebook profiles. University administration in an unnamed university in Eastern Ontario were conducting surveillance on students to gather information on misdeeds and frosh parties.

With more online users than ever, many questions arise. Should we censor ourselves? And is there anything in cyberspace that we should be worried about?

To media scholar Donna Boyd, social media is a “mediated public” which has four characteristics: persistence, searchability, replicability and an invisible audience. These characteristics will help us explore self-censorship online.  

Persistence

Everything you post will persist for a very long time. Yes, even your stupid Facebook and Twitter arguments. It’s all saved on a server somewhere and if you ever want to be a politician or an activist then you better be prepared for a smear campaign. 

Searchability 

Not only do the things you post persist over time, but they can be conjured up by a simple Google search. Remember that angsty teenage LiveJournal? Yes, it’s probably still there and anyone can find it. 

Replicability 

After an embarrassing personal tidbit is found through a search engine it can be copied countless times and taken out of its original context. Something you said in a heated Twitter debate can be removed from its fiery context and make you look bad.

Invisible Audience

Anything you posted between just a second ago and a decade ago has the potential to be seen by countless strangers. Much of the content we post is publicly available — particularly if you use #hashtags, which allows a larger community of users to have access to your life stories. 

The Internet is a mediated public. It’s not a private bedroom or a diary. Nor is it a dystopic Big Brother trying to spoil your life chances. But it does require a different way of socializing. You need to be cognizant of its characteristics or you’ll run the risk of embarrassment or a difficult time finding employment. 

In the end, social media is here to stay — we just need to learn to live with it.    

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