We’ve all said things in the past we’d rather forget. But, Cass Denton wonders, should they be held over us forever? Should my social media past affect my future?
It’s fair to say that we have all held views or said things in our past that may not be in line with the way we see the world today. For anyone who has grown up during the digital age, there’s a good chance that some of those views will have been aired online. The question is, should what I say online be held against me in future? The answer? It’s complicated.
There was a time in everyone’s life when they were not so good at the things they are now. For the most part, we leave the past behind and appreciate the skills that person shows in the present, so why can’t a similar rule be applied when it comes to our social media past? As we encounter new people and experiences, we explore new ways of thinking; we develop our intellect and dissect our opinions as we go along. If what we say online now is different to what we said 5 years ago, that’s a good thing, because it shows we have grown as people. It doesn’t necessarily mean we’re pretending to be someone we are not, it simply means evolution.
Being held accountable
As much as we should value growth, we can’t expect people to just accept that we’ve grown and move on; we should expect to be challenged. Why? Because that’s the cost that comes along with putting ourselves out there. One of the greatest things about social media (and perhaps also the worst) is the fact that we are able to carve out spaces for ourselves as ‘authorities’ in some way, shape or form. Once we’ve done that, we should be prepared to have to defend what we say. The internet isn’t the place to shy away from opposition, because there are people who make it practically their life’s work to prove you wrong. So yes, by all means appreciate your own growth; be proud of it. But be prepared to answer some questions too.
If what we say online now is different to what we said 5 years ago, that’s a good thing, because it shows we have grown as people.
To delete or not to delete?
That really is the question…
Keeping track of the things we say online can be tricky, and this is essentially one of the things that can catch people out. If you were prone to off the cuff comments and ‘shock value’ updates in your earlier days on social media, those things may still be out there, just waiting to be found. Sure, you can be ready to defend yourself and talk about how you’ve changed as a person, but depending on how offensive the statement was, that might not cut it. So what to do? You may find that you can only scroll back so far to past updates, so that cut off may be what saves you (but don’t be surprised if a screenshot comes back to haunt you!) If you do come across something that makes you cringe in disgust / horror, weigh it up; do you want to defend your right to have posted it in the first place? Or would you prefer to save that energy and delete? The choice is yours.
Remember the bigger picture…
Your online presence won’t just present challenges from your peers and followers. It could also impact your work life. Current and future employers may want to do a little background check online to see what they find, and it could have an impact on your future with that company. Is it fair for social media activity to affect employment? Well, yes and no. Social media is somewhere to express ourselves, and we should be allowed to do so freely. However, there is a line. Companies should be allowed to penalise you for using language that is threatening or discriminatory, as they rightly want to cherry pick the kinds of people that work for their organisation. A good way of getting a bit more privacy is by using an alias. But don’t use the fact that it will be hard (but not impossible) to track you as licence to be a complete arse.
Don’t let your ego get the better of you
Someone once told me that social media is all about ego. We want to say something interesting enough to get a retweet, like or share; if not for our own content, then for content we have carefully curated. They believe that sometimes that ego can lead us to saying things for effect and shock value, with little consideration about the impact it may have, just how much of a reaction it will get. I agree with this to some extent. When we share on social media we are looking for something; be that acceptance, agreement, for people to care about what we say, or just simple conversation. That’s not about ego, at least not for all of us. We can hide behind the mantra of ‘free speech’ all we like, but we must be prepared to be held accountable for what we say – those are the rules of the game.
Is it fair for our social media past to affect our future? Let us know what you think in the comments below.
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