For a long time, I avoided social media. I valued a certain privacy and was (and for that matter continue to be) fond of saying “those who need to know, know already.” I did not need social media to tell them anything about me.
Then one day it happened. I did not adjust the sharing features on my blog and a post concerning my reading of a book of Marilyn Robinson posted to Facebook where it was seen by more people in forty five minutes than it would have been in a week relying on search engines to direct others to the post or by friends, most of whom do not follow me. (The sentiment here is usually, why follow you, when you can put it on Facebook.) Suddenly the post logged a “like” alerting me it was out there. I was quick to take it down. Actually I took it off because of a single line in that post.
I was flattered that the post was quickly liked, still I was not comfortable with a sudden intimacy that I gave about 150 people. (That is not an accidental number; I keep Facebook adjusted to reflect Dundar’s number.)
Following the matter, I decided to read up on transparency and the web and to make a decision as to whether social media was one more avenue I could use to lend credence to thoughts and feelings. This eventually led me to better understand the control of content on social media and how to keep the number of those who could access my blog through the likes of Facebook to a number that would permit me to share it and yet not make me feel so exposed. (if you can read this, you are one of 71 people, unless you share it in which case your life must be more mundane than mine.)
During my research I drew two conclusions
First, we do not do enough to control content, but social media is hardly to blame: Whether one creates a circle on Google+ or restricts access to a post on Facebook, you can initially decide who sees what you put out there. Granted if we are narcissistic these are hardly features we need, but it also beats sharing something by emailing 15 different people, if we want to share something with a select number.
Second, the web is inherently transparent: Information wants to be free and those who have given us social media concur. “If you don’t want someone to know, don’t do it.” That is an ancient proverb that was reiterated by the CEO of Google. I may have kept myself from being too obvious on the web, but others have not. If you know where to look, you are out there somewhere. Go to my Facebook timeline and you find fewer than ten photos of me. If you start to plow through my family and friends photos, many that are public, you can find many more. The same is true of posts I have made, which are shared. You can do this little exercise of stalking yourself. It may take some time, but you will be surprised at what you find. And you hardly need social media to find yourself on the web anyway; a good old fashion search will turn up plenty, particularly if your name is not a common one. My point is that if you are already present in cyberspace, you may as well be the one that puts you there.
So finally I decided it was time to love social media. Actually love is a strong word, but it worked for this post and is a nod to Stanley Kubrick’s “Dr. Strangelove.” And loving social media may be a little akin to loving the bomb anyway. It is no doomsday device, but there are more than few divorces and lost jobs out there that owe something to it. It will certainly produce a fair share of our foolishness and force us to occasionally do damage control, but it will also allow us to be the one to represent ourselves in a world where we will have that representation anyway.
Image by Kathleen Donovan Creative Commons license.