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.
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.
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!