Social media is more active than it ever has been before. Parents are buying their little infant babies iPads, and there are toddlers running around with iPhones. Children are starting their forays into the online world much earlier than the generations before them. I take no issue with this—the Internet generates and provides a massive amount of information, and much of it is enriching. However, as much enriching information as there is out there, there is also another side to the Internet that can be massively damaging. It doesn’t just have to do with what you are looking up online—it also has to do with what you’re posting yourself.
I know first-hand, from my fourteen-year-old sister, that there are eighth graders who post pictures of themselves on Instagram with no pants on. This is not commentary on how short girls’pants are these days—the person in question is literally wearing no pants. Teenagers put up pictures of themselves in the presence of illegal drugs, underage drinking, and any number of other precarious situations. Even Internet users in their twenties show through their Internet usage that they are no more mature than their high school counterparts. Ignorant Facebook status updates and, again, pictures that showcase obvious inebriation and bad choices are the low points on the profiles of otherwise intelligible young adults.
Think of the people who have access to your Facebook, your Twitter, your Instagram—your friends, family, coworkers, bosses, teachers, etc. You don’t know everything they know, and everyone they’re talking to. A coworker could let a detail slip in front of a boss or manager about something you may have not wanted to be shared. College admissions staff, especially at smaller schools, may be checking up on social media accounts of applicants – and wouldn’t it be terrible if one stupid picture changed the course of the rest of your college career, and subsequently, your life?
I’m not condemning having fun. It’s fine if people that want to go out and party and drink, but those are not actions that should necessarily be shared on such a public forum. I’m simply advocating that you think twice before sharing a picture of yourself smoking a joint or drinking at a party. Even something as innocuous as a picture sent to a friend could have impact on your future. Additionally, I have no problem with “selfies.” If you’re comfortable sharing a picture, then by all means, do it. But just take a moment to think of future repercussions. If you’re still okay with posting it after the fact, then go ahead.
In this time of epic media production and consumption of all forms, it makes sense to be an informed producer and consumer. We aren’t living in a time where the average person has access only to television and radio. As long as you’re equipped with an iPhone and a hint of Internet savviness, you can post a video on YouTube, upload pictures to Instagram, and share your opinion on Twitter. Use these tools for good, not for harm—and especially not for bringing harm upon yourself. Just take a second to think before you click that mouse or tap that finger.