There were a number of incidents this week that made me think about what we are saying about ourselves when we update our Facebook status, Tweet or say where we are on Four Square. Individually, these things are just small, passing words about how we may be feeling at one point in time.
But put them together and what picture do they portray? The photographs that you add on Facebook may show you enjoying a good night out with friends but what do they say to other people?
It all goes back to something I have held as a principal for many years. I have always made close family aware of what photograph of me I want them to use should they ever have to make a touching tribute publicly because of some tragic incident. I have always been clear that I want to present the right image even if I am no longer around – or rather especially if I am no longer around.
When we use social media, we allow people to have a view of us. Take all these together, through Facebook, Twitter etc and it can present a view – and not always a positive one, and often not an accurate reflection of who we are. We present this view not just to our family or friends, but to the world at large. It is this open access that makes it even more problematic.
So, if that is an issue what do we need to do? Firstly, ensure you have the right protection and security settings in place on Facebook. Don’t just accept all friend requests if you don’t know people or if there are any other concerns raised.
Secondly, never use Twitter, Facebook or any other social network in anger. If you fear what you may say in your update, don’t open things up. Keep off social networks until you can calmly provide any updates.
Thirdly, consider what image you want to portray, and read your tweets, status updates etc to see what it says about you to other people. If they don’t know you what would they learn about you.
Fourthly, don’t think that you can keep parts of your life separate on social networks. Facebook may be for friends and LinkedIn for business, but if someone checks you out on Google it will all come up and be seen together.
Finally, don’t be afraid of social networks just be aware. These issues are no reason to abandon all forms of social media, they are just things to be aware of, and alert to. If you have been on social media for some time, you can still make a change. Look at how to clean up your image and then start again with a positive personal approach.
We all know that every time there is a significant incident the media will automatically check the victim, offender and other relatives out to see what they say about themselves on social networks. At that point it may be too late for you to be careful about how social you have been.