Watch What You Say… And What You Post

A few weeks ago in AP Psychology my class and I were discussing human sexuality, and specifically, the fraternal birth order effect. It was an interesting and intellectual discussion, and one of the better ones we had had, until someone said:

“Oh my gosh, I have three younger brothers. One of them could be gay. That’s so depressing.”

Immediately I thought to myself,” Why is that depressing, huh? Just because one of your brothers has a slightly higher chance of being homosexual? Does that mean you would stop loving him? That’s so shallow, my goodness…”

Obviously I didn’t say any of this out loud, nor did I really think that the person who had said the statement was a bad older sibling. The person could have meant that if one of their siblings had been gay, then the amount of obstacles he would have to overcome is depressing. The person could have meant that they really would have been depressed solely because of their sibling’s sexuality. The person could have meant anything, really, and I will never know because my (somewhat harsh and unfair) judgment was based off of only what I heard then and there.

We're learning about Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs in Psychology now. My current project is to construct a 3D pyramid based off of this one - it's too bad I'm bad at art. (image via Wikipedia)

There are bound to be people like that out there though – people who judge you by what you say, assuming that that is representative of who you are. That’s why I am worried when I see people posting personal things on Facebook and Twitter, such as their conflicts with others or angst-ridden messages that are typical of teenagers. It’s even a little embarrassing because I know that they’ll look back on these things they’ve said and think about how immature they seemed (such as saying that they want to kill themselves over having too much homework).

The thing about Facebook and Twitter and other social networking sites that many people (especially teenagers) don’t realize is that everyone can see what you’re posting. There are certain security measures in place, sure, but for the most part people like your future employers and college admissions officers will be able to see everything you’ve said. When people are searching for who to hire or who to admit to their college, they’re going to assume that the people who post pictures of themselves partying party all the time. Or when they see someone who posts offensive material, they’re going to assume that that person has a tendency to be immature or inappropriate.

I know how tempting it is to tweet whatever you’re thinking or feeling right away, but take a moment to consider how other people will view your tweet. They won’t be experiencing the same emotions as you, and they won’t know what circumstance in life has caused you to write whatever you wrote. All they’ll see is what appears in front of them on their computer screen, and if that isn’t to their liking, well, that won’t work out well for you. Of course we should not be that harsh when judging other people, but honestly, people see what they want to see and once you’ve said something bad about someone or offensive to a group, then it’s over for your reputation.

What can I say? I am an awkward guy. Though I usually tweet about books and life and what not... I try not to get too angst-ridden, ha ha.

Instead, we should control our thoughts and moderate what we reveal online. Instead of posting things like “oh my gosh, my math teacher gave me an F I feel like clawing my eyes out I hate life” talk about it with a friend or write it down in a place where no one will see. Emotional catharsis is not difficult to come by, but the internet makes it too easy for us to say things we will regret later. There has been an influx of individuals who automatically relate blogging to teenagers ranting about their lives, when that is really a misinterpretation (though there are a few teens who do so). To prevent people from assuming such things, we can simply control what we say and think before clicking that “publish” or “post” button.

I know how important free speech is, look at the things I post on this blog – some of it is pretty personal. However, I am comfortable with the majority of the public viewing what I’ve posted. You may have the right to say something, but others have the right to judge what you’ve said and think that you’re not as smart as you seemed in real life.

Thoughts? Do you know anyone who posts insanely personal stuff all the time? Have you ever felt uncomfortable or disturbed reading something someone posted online? I hope all of you have a wonderful weekend!



Filed under Personal, Society

18 responses to “Watch What You Say… And What You Post

  1. I follow a few people who say WAY too much about themselves. There needs to be some kind of filtering software that removes stuff we’ll really regret later.

  2. “That’s why I am worried when I see people posting personal things on Facebook and Twitter, such as their conflicts with others or angst-ridden messages that are typical of teenagers. It’s even a little embarrassing because I know that they’ll look back on these things they’ve said and think about how immature they seemed (such as saying that they want to kill themselves over having too much homework).”

    They don’t always grow out of it. I see many adults who post crazy stuff, even crazier than what the teens are posting, such as problems with their significant others that are worthy of Maury or Springer, posts about bowel movements (theirs or their children’s), posts that are nothing but obscenities, and so forth. They’re living in the moment, not caring how those posts will come back to haunt them.

    Facebook switching to Timeline made me very self-conscious about what I post to my page, even though I have strong privacy settings. I felt that my past posts were too angry and negative, so I deleted a good chunk of negative posts, started watching what I posted and limited what I posted to mostly positive things. Facebook can be a huge time-waster and it’s easy to get caught up in it, so there are times when it’s best to step away from the computer for a moment.

    • I felt the same way about Timeline. And that was the main reason I deleted my previous account. There were way too much posts I regret I posted. Just thinking how others (or even, myself) could get to view those, haunted me. However, I realized how hard it was to catch up with my school networks without Facebook, so I had to make a new account again. Now my posts are very constrained, so even if Timeline should get imposed to every account, it would be fine.

      • That makes three of us when it comes to Facebook and Timeline! Like Dienna, I went back and deleted a myriad of angry/negative posts from 2009 and 2010 when I still wasn’t aware of how damaging those things could be to me in the future. I think with things like Twitter and Facebook people often post things, and then they forget about them when their pages get covered in new stuff – but when Facebook switched to Timeline, it made those old posts more prominent, thus prompting people to get rid of them.

        Dienna, you bring up another good point about stepping back and waiting. I was taking notes from my AP Psychology textbook this morning, and one of the methods they suggested to alleviate anger was simply to wait. So, good advice on your part and theirs.

  3. -side eyes- 😐 I feel like this could be directed at me, at least when I used to spam my thoughts on Twitter, completely getting rid of my brain-to-mouth filter (I make it sound like this was a long time ago when it was only a week ago…)

    I don’t think it’s bad to say that you have a lot of homework, it’s the continual complaints that really bother me. Reminds me of my friends who are always talking about their boy troubles and posting cryptic Facebook statuses about how dramatic and terrible life is, etc. Meanwhile I’ll, if I do so at all, post a status just with funny videos or political articles or something… (I don’t use Facebook much, just to chat with friends from time to time).

    I’m not too concerned about online privacy, especially since I don’t post anything that could be taken as objectionable (unless one would consider my flaming liberal political ideals to be objectionable…) aside from on LiveJournal and Twitter, which both can’t be traced to my person anyway, so I think I’m fine really. And I don’t take pictures of myself doing anything stupid aside from making silly faces (what can I say, I can gif my face).

    I have to agree with you, though, for the most part. People just do stupid things, unfortunately, and they think they’re cool to post it even though they might regret it later.

    Also, you’re lucky you get to take Psychology, it sounds really interesting. Unfortunately my schedule doesn’t allow for it, which makes me sad. Now I’m off to study for the SAT, I’m going to take it tomorrow morning ugh. See ya! 😀

    • To be honest I actually don’t use Twitter that much, so if you’ve been spamming your thoughts I did not know. I just see a lot of K-Pop updates, which isn’t bad when not excessive.

      I know what you mean when it comes to Facebook! I do feel sorry for those who post dark, cryptic statuses about how their lives suck – I wish they would just talk it out with someone (or me) instead of having all of their friends worry about them and wonder if they’re going to make a bad decision. Like one of my friend’s moms said, people who cry out for attention do so for a reason. My use of Facebook is similar to yours, just the occasional random status update or political video or link to something or another.

      Aw, perhaps you can take Psychology next year? It is a wonderful class. Also, how do you think you did? I bet you did well with all the studying you’ve done – some of my friends took the SAT yesterday too. Either way, you have more chances!

  4. I agree with you about filtering anything you post on the Internet. Many fail to realize that any TEXT is highly open for interpretation. It actually bothers me when people are too comfortable in posting everything about themselves and about how they feel and other stuffs. I’ve been to that stage too, and it had given me much to regret years later. (This was the reason I deleted my previous Facebook account.) I saw how a lot of people could have misjudged me and my general way of thinking. I knew that when I had written those things, my emotions and conviction were too strong, but later on as I reread it, with now a very different perspective, it was just bland, and even stupid.

    My blog however was a different case. I admit, it all started out with particular people in mind to read my stuff. However eventually, I started writing primarily for myself, and for those who actually wish to understand how I think and feel. I don’t speak much to other people, and it’s always been a challenge for me to socialize. If people think I’m calm and quiet on the outside, actually, I have lots of thoughts and emotions going on inside me. And although I wanted to express it to somebody, I always find it difficult to do so, even with my family and friends. I find it easier to write, and have them read it. However still, I limit what I write, and publish only things I feel comfortable with for even a stranger to read. Maybe if my friends should really want to know more about me, they could steal my diary box. Lol, if they can.

    • Yes, what you’ve written in your first paragraph is all too common these days. People post things that are emotionally charged and in the moment but later on come back to it and regret it. I must admit that it’s a good thing you went back and recognized those things though, and it’s also a plus that you were able to delete your Facebook – at least what you said way back when hasn’t been made permanent. People change, and you don’t want to be remembered by things you said that you shouldn’t have a long time ago.

      And I understand what you mean with your blog. I haven’t had a lot of time to read other people’s blogs lately, but from what I’ve seen and what I do see on yours you are a very intelligent person (and a great writer!) though you do, like you said, write for yourself. I get that, and I do it too – like with my latest post about my mom. It’s important to write for yourself and to express yourself, as it does lead to self-discovery, emotional catharsis, etc. You have a balance though, and I’m glad that you are aware of what you want people to see and what you don’t want them to see.

      Thanks for reading and commenting, and keep it up with your blog!

  5. Someone I went to school with posted relentlessly about his messy divorce via fb status updates. It was painful and kind of embarassing to watch. I felt for his desperation, but at the same time I fully believed that it wasn’t the place for it. I didn’t know him well enough to suggest he find some other way to deal with it – which I suppose is the point I’m making; every person he had a loose connection with on fb saw what he put out there.

    I fully agree with you Thomas – anything I post on fb or Twitter is either positive, or if I’m annoyed or embarassed about something I’ll only write it in a humorous way after the fact when I’m sure I want it out there.
    Too many people think a status update is a means of personal catharsis and I find it faintly horrifying!

    • Oh, I know that feeling. That awkward “gosh he seems so sad and he’s telling everybody about it but I don’t know him well enough to help him goodness this is awkward” feeling. Facebook posts are not regulated to only one’s close friends, so even one’s Facebook friends that may not know them that well can have access to what one posts… which, like in your case, can lead to some embarrassment and regret.

      I do the same thing, Ruth – mostly positive or humorous things, and even when I’m feeling other emotions such as sadness or anger, to show such thoughts in a happier light. It is a little disturbing what we see on the internet these days…

  6. Merris

    i had a friend who always posted these incredibly silly and random tweets like, “oh,I’m so hungry right now” or “why is tomorrow not a holiday,darn!”..stuff like that. that’s during the time she just made a twitter account. but then she(probably) got increasingly excited about her freedom to say anything and so she started writing bizarre tweets of insult and throwing out expletives to the teachers and friends that has done her wrong.she said it was “cool and helps her express herself”. well, she actually sounds more childish than she really is. but thankfully, she understood it now and stopped(after one of the teachers found out and verbally confronted her).when i read your post, my mind directly went to her. You’re totally right,people should think about the appropriateness of their post before they click that publish button.:)

    • Oh dang, the silly and random tweets didn’t so bad, but insults and expletives are never good. I’m glad that she stopped, even if it required one of her teachers finding out – I suppose she learned her lesson about controlling her catharsis then, right? Ha, well, thanks for sharing your story!

  7. Great post Thomas. Yes, posting personal stuff impulsively does have it consequences. Being paranoid as I am, I tend to be picky about what I post, I want people to know about me but how much is too much? So that’s why I edit, a lot. What’s important is to keep an open mind because a person can express his opinion on something but I might read it differently. But there are some posts that are very straight forward. Then they are some that are both frank and foolish and to be regretted later, I’ve been there before and don’t intend to return, so you can say I’ve learned my lesson.
    Look before you leap but in this case, think before you post (and reveal your deepest darkest secrets)

    Becoming Cliche has a good idea, such a software is very much needed.

    • Agreed Devina! I think the majority of people have posted things they later regret, it’s like a learning experience that allows them to see what they should post and what they should refrain from sharing on the internet.

      I’m glad you guys are getting good ideas from each other, and thanks for reading and commenting!

  8. Pingback: Sharing. | Sad Rainy Days

  9. I came here from Sad Rainy Days and I’m so glad! This was such a thoughtful piece. Lovely writing.

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