As the popular adage goes “People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.”
Essentially, this means that people who have certain weaknesses shouldn’t criticize others for those same issues. However, a new spin to this old saying can be used.
Now, people live in those glass houses by putting their information all over the internet, and throwing stones is just saying something that might be damaging to themselves or others.
Many people in the first world have a social media account of some kind.
Older generations tend to favor Facebook, the youth of today favor Twitter and Snapchat, and Instagram is used by anyone with a camera phone. With these social medias, we put our thoughts, feelings, and lives out into the world for almost everyone to see.
This is not without consequence.
Let’s start at a fairly low level of how this impacts our lives; our real life social interactions.
If you post something to your social media account that, for example, contains an anti-gay marriage quote, and you have any gay co-workers, friends, classmates, or acquaintances who follow you on that account, most likely they will, at the very least, ask you about it later, making a fairly uncomfortable conversation out of the topic. More often than not, however, they might not talk to you, consider you anti-gay and sever their ties, and in a more extreme case, band together with other pro-gay marriage individuals to shut you out of any group you may have been in with them.
The next level would be professional interactions, with businesses, employers, or contractors.
If you post something considered very out-of-line with the ideology of a potential employer, you could lose your chance of getting that job. This could include making political remarks, talking about various social deeds deemed less than respectable, talking about drinking, partying, breaking laws. While many people don’t consider their social media at all connected with their jobs and professional life, many businesses look at the internet personas of their potential employees, and even current employees, to ensure their business is being well-represented among its employee-base.
For younger people, colleges are another potential pit-fall when it comes to social media.
Many colleges look at prospective students social media accounts to see what the student puts on there. The college may look for posts about how the student feels about that particular school, the student’s personal life, and even the language used. One misplaced swear-word can end a student’s chances at a top-tier school before the Admissions department even sees their application.
Even high schools are getting on the train. Some districts employ full-time social media monitors to keep a watchful eye on the social media environ that surrounds the student body. They mainly keep an eye out for excessive online bullying, threats between or at students, potential inappropriate student-teacher interactions, and terror threats by students. These monitors can suggest disciplinary actions for any student they take issue with, from detention to expulsion, depending on the severity of the infraction. And many of these schools have no set code delineating how their social media monitors make these decisions, leaving it to the discretion of the district.
Social media accounts are a double-edged sword.
They create a dangerous ecosystem for people to destroy their own and others’ lives, sometimes unwittingly. They create a system where people can remove their own privacy, put their private lives on display for all levels of society and business, and subject themselves to immeasurable pain in the process. But social media also allows those who use it properly to grow, develop new connections, maintain old friendships, and keep themselves informed.
Social media is a dangerous weapon, and with all weapons, its users must understand the dangers before they can enjoy the benefits.
Alexander Gault-Plate is an aspiring journalist and writer, currently in the 12th grade. He has worked with his schools newspapers and maintained a blog for his previous school. In the future, he hopes to write for a new-media news company.
You can follow Alexander on Twitter here https://twitter.com/AlexanderBGault.