Want a way to explain to your aunt why she shouldn’t post a 1,000 word status update about seeing a lizard on the sidewalk while she was walking her dog? To explain to that 19-year-old girl in your class why she shouldn’t tweet a selfie in her mirror holding a glass of wine? It’s all about using social media responsibly and thinking before you post.
Being responsible online may seem like a no-brainer to some. However, we all have that one friend on Facebook or that person we follow on Twitter that posts things we would never even consider publishing online for the world to see. Maybe you’ve even seen posts in your ventures around Hub that you considered borderline inappropriate. So, how do you know what is responsible and what is not? Here are a few things you should think about and ask yourself before posting.
1. Could this post be considered bullying?
Through articles you have read or even things you have experienced in the past, you may believe bullying online only happens in middle and high schools. However, cyberbullying is an extremely serious issue for all age groups. Put yourself in the place of the person you are talking to and consider how you would feel if you were on the receiving end of your own message. Are you personally attacking that person? Is the message you are about to send threatening or intimidating? Could it make that person feel uncomfortable or unsafe? Sometimes it’s almost too easy to forget that that person is another living, breathing human being with his or her own thoughts, feelings, and emotions just like you. Be considerate. If you have any sort of inkling that your status update, comment, tweet, or wall post could be considered bullying, do not post it. It may be a good time to close your laptop, walk away, and take a breather from social media for a while. Learn more about cyberbullying here: http://www.stopbullying.gov/cyberbullying/
2. Will I regret this post in the future?
It’s either happened to you or someone you know. A status or picture gets posted on Facebook or tweeted by someone under the influence on Friday night that is immediately regretted and deleted Saturday morning. Someone makes a quick decision based on the emotions he or she is feeling at that moment and posts something mean or rude. These situations can be easily avoided by thinking before you post and making a promise to yourself to only use social media when you have a clear, sober mind. If you are someone who tends to abuse social networks while going out on the weekend, consider allowing a trusted friend to carry your phone for you. Drinking before the age of 21 is illegal in Wisconsin and it is NEVER a good idea to have pictures of you clearly doing something illegal on any social network. Similarly, if you are angered or upset by something you read online and your first reaction is to post a brash response, ask a friend to review the message before you publish it. The time it will take for you to do this will allow you to settle down, clear your head, and reconsider.
3. Am I purposely trying to upset people?
In Internet slang, a “troll” is “a person who submits a deliberately provocative online posting intended to incite an angry response.” You’ve most likely seen them in places such as Reddit, 4chan, or basically any website that includes a social feature where people can post anonymously. You might have even seen people you know offline “trolling” in some form on Facebook or Twitter. Though it might be amusing for the poster, it definitely isn’t for the rest of the website’s community. Trolls ruin the experience for every other user because their posts halt discussion and deter the website away from its original purpose. People begin to hesitate in posting for fear that the troll might respond. If you find enjoyment in these kinds of activities, it may be time to do some soul searching. Ask yourself why you like spending your time angering or upsetting other people online. Consider finding something else in which to devote your energy. For example, play The Sims 3 and have your sims troll on forums instead!
4. Am I revealing too much information about myself?
This is where your aunt writing a novel on Facebook about how the waiter she had at Cracker Barrel looked like Leonardo DiCaprio comes in. It also includes that friend you follow that attaches his location to his tweets and tweets 5 times an hour so you can tell exactly where he is at any time of the day. Leaving too large of a “digital footprint” can be dangerous (and annoying for other users). You may have the privacy settings on your profiles perfectly tweaked, but the people who can see your information have the ability to take it and do anything they want with it. This means the information you share online is accessible to almost anyone. Think before you post sensitive information. Do your friends really need to know exactly where you live, work, and eat? Would this long, winding status update that people have to scroll through to read be better suited for another platform such as a blog?
Conclusively, the best guideline you can follow to being responsible on social media is to think before you post. The information about yourself you put online shapes people’s image of you just as much as the things you do when you’re out in public. So next time before you tweet, post that status or picture or leave a comment on Facebook, or even post in a discussion on Hub, consider taking a moment to think about what you’re posting and asking yourself these four questions.