A few days ago, marked the 11th anniversary of opening my Facebook account. I started reflecting about all the time I spent carousing the site, and about a month ago, I started logging how much time I was spending on it. After realizing how much (an average of 3.5 hours a day!), what I got out of it, and what that time could have been used for; I decided to delete my account, marking the end of an era for me.
But from the ashes, I will rise anew! Over the coming months, I am going to start a personal quest to learn more about how to control my internet presence, and in doing so, craft my own internet destiny, bringing out the best I can offer. I am going to transform myself from being a consumer of content to a maker of content. And it starts here, by thinking about how I interact with the internet, and how I can change that for the better.
I grew up in the age where we saw the invention of the internet, a time where we could make stupid mistakes and it wasn’t immediately posted up on social media memes, fail videos, or a long list of troll sites. Our mistakes travelled through the grapevine, spreading from one person to another over the course of a day or a week, and then it faded to the backs of people’s minds. Most of our mistakes only went public on a regional scale, but the speed and reach of the internet have created a larger community of witnesses to the dumb things that humans do.
I have seen how this new technology has influenced my friends, family and myself. I feel like at this point, we are at the start of a new way of being, and I have been struggling with how I should fit into it. We all have a past, with some glories, some regrets, and some moments that we have not fully processed yet. Some of the things we have done and said aren’t the greatest things on earth. We are self-involved and don’t really think about how our actions and words affect those around us, especially when we were young. As we get older, we start to think about those things and wonder how it impacted other people’s lives. We start to think about how what we do and say impacts people’s perceptions of us.
When I was about 10 years old, I remember watching an episode of Gilligan’s Island on TV where Gilligan found some sunflower seeds that allowed him to read minds. The rest of the crew eventually found out and wanted to read minds as well. The crew’s private thoughts spewed out uncontrolled, and hilarity ensued. Eventually, they got rid of the seeds because they realized that reading each other’s minds was not all that it was cracked up to be.
In our present world, the internet and all the devices/programs we use to connect to it are becoming more like Gilligan’s seeds, it’s as close to telepathy as we have – except we are volunteering to throw our thoughts and opinions out there for everyone to see and let them ‘read our minds’. The problem is, reality isn’t a sitcom where hilarity will ensue.
No, reality is much more insidious, we spew our thoughts out impulsively, and don’t think about impacts it may have on other users of the internet and social media. We voluntarily give out our most intimate thoughts to our friends, family, coworkers, the unsolicited public, our government, and even foreign powers. It is so ubiquitous that we don’t even notice internet corporations targeting ads, government tracking, and corporate headhunting following our every post, selfie, and check-in. The worst part is, once the information in on the internet, it’s terribly difficult to get rid of it. If you ever become famous, run for political office, start a business, or just attempt to get a job, your whole history is out there for anyone to scrutinize and judge. The problem is that the context, tone and voice that we used to post our material won’t matter, the court of public opinion will judge it however it wants.
It is not my intention to induce paranoia, or to silence people on the internet. When used appropriately, social media can do more for your business, your research, your cause, and yourself, than you thought imaginable. We can engage with a larger audience; however, we need to be more professional. We need to recognize our own chaos, stop posting the first thing that comes to mind, and create logical, well-reasoned thoughts with proper grammar. We need to think about what we want to communicate and help people understand what we are trying to say. We can still contribute to the conversation and put our best foot forward, if we take a moment to think clearly, instead of typing out our first impulse.
Let Gilligan’s hijinks stand as a cautionary take. We have reached the point in our history where people are starting to realize that it’s not a great thing to see the pandemonium inside someone’s head.
I am going to start by doing just that, thinking about what I happen to say, and not saying what I happen think.