Art by Peau Porotesano
Like anything on the Web, social media presents pros and cons. When used correctly, it can be an excellent form of networking, connecting with friends and sharing one’s day-to-day activities. It can also be used professionally to advertise for business or attract a user’s attention. However, it’s not all rainbows and butterflies. If left unfiltered, social media can easily become a hindrance to users’ personal and professional lives. In addition, social media can have a negative effect on individuals who read the posts.
It’s important to remember that once shared, our posts are no longer our own. Photos and comments are available for all eyes to see once they’re posted on the Web, and while your Facebook settings may be “friends only,” that doesn’t always mean that unwelcome eyes won’t view your posts.
A number of cases gathered media attention in recent years involving employees posting insensitive remarks or photos on the Web and consequently losing their jobs.
In fact, a 2013 careerbuilder.com study found that more than two in five hiring managers who researched job candidates via their social media said they had discovered information on their profiles that convinced them not to hire the potential employees.
But as important as it is for us to be wary about what we post online for fear of being fired or not being hired, it’s more important that we realize what we say and do online affects other people.
It’s something that people seem to forget so often. When someone posts something from one’s bedroom, or squired away somewhere, other human beings pop up as pixels on a screen; they almost don’t seem real, which is one reason why people seem to be that much crueler online.
In “a 2002 study published in Brain and Cognition, Robert McGivern and co-workers found that adolescents struggle with the ability to recognize another person’s emotions … In many ways, the young teenage brain is non-empathic,” reported Gary Small and Gigi Vorgan in a Feb. 18, 2011 article for CNN titled “Is the Internet killing empathy?” Although this article and study was directed specifically at teenagers, that’s about half of the demographic here at Pepperdine. This lack of empathy is what often leads to a lot of the posts we see online. People seem to forget that all the funny or amusing things they post online affect the people around them.
Social media is a reflection of the self — maybe not the truest one, but definitely a version that will give a certain impression based on the content shared or posts made. People who read and view this content will be seeing a snapshot, something that has no explanation or context.
With any social media, it’s easy to misconstrue a person’s message, taken out of context, and twist that into an idea of who someone is. You may not see yourself as a discriminatory or ignorant person, but others may not be able to percieve the content of your character if the content you post is seen as racist, homophobic or offensive.
Perhaps most dangerously, your friends may take what you post to be a representation of who you are as a human being. Living in Southern California, and attending school in Malibu, we come in contact with different cultures and ethnicities every day, and we’re friends with people of different backgrounds. Yet we’ve seen the effects of these online posts in our community here. With blackface on Snapchat and racial slurs on Yik Yak, it’s almost surprising that it’s 2016.
It’s crucial that people consider the effect online posts might have on people before you post. Yes, social media can affect possible job opportunities in the future, but more than that, social media and the content posted online has a direct effect on real, living human beings. Let’s think twice before we post and know that there’s more to people than the pixels on the screen, because it’s not Vegas. What happens online doesn’t stay there.
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