Social media sites like Facebook and Pinterest (and to some extent LinkedIn) are grand for taking the pulse of the people and measuring change over time. Not only individuals, but potential employers/clients consult these pages to research people in whom they have an interest. As a freelance writer and consultant, I want to put my best foot forward, and my prospective clients see these pages as well. What must they think?
I occasionally look at the pages of people I once knew because I am curious about their progress. I recently visited the page of a young woman who once worked for me as a temp. Back then, she was vain, self-absorbed and immodest. Her earliest photos displayed her revealing clothing, and usually she was in the company of an open bottle shared with equally immodest friends. I always had the impression they’d been photographed in the back alley of a sleazy nightclub. Recently I looked at her page again. Unruly photographs have been replaced with photos of her children and her family—she rarely appears in the photographs she posts. In those in which she has appeared, she is tastefully attired without having lost any of her appeal, and she has obviously matured without losing her sparkling personality. She would be very welcome if the occasion arose.
In contrast, I came across the page of a young woman whose father I had known. She was a cute four-year-old when I met her. I got a look at her page recently. Now in her 20s, she has surpassed her parents in body-ink and piercings, and her language, attitude and apparent interests are crude and vulgar. She is no longer the sweet four-year-old I met. If approached, I would scream and run for cover. She’s left a horrible impression.
In a recent conversation, a woman with a home business mentioned she uses her Facebook page to reach out to customers. It is the same page she uses to post pictures of family picnics, and share non-business related information with friends. It isn’t exactly helping her, because there are times when viewers can’t tell the business from the personal postings.
I myself have had some difficulty with the content that ends up on my Facebook and Pinterest pages. With the best will in the world, there are people who post ‘motivational’ and ‘inspirational’ content that ranges from supportive to saccharin, to practically fanatical. These sometimes end up where others can see them.
I have a difficulty with the other end of the spectrum too. I find postings of a political (practically abusive) nature, and sometimes postings on topics that wouldn’t be suitable in most venues, with language that is absolutely foul. These wind up on my pages too. So I repeat, what must my prospective clients think?
So whether its Facebook or Pinterest (and on some occasions LinkedIn too), I seem to be providing a neutral ground for the Dance of Sacred and Profane. Unless I want to severely dismantle my social network, I’m at a bit of a loss. There are things that only I see, and wish I didn’t have to—I wanted to know and share a bit of people’s lives, but they seem to be interested in showing me the least desirable parts. And then there are the postings which circulate without control—websites favoured by other people that wind up on my pages.
I fully support freedom of self-expression. As the world more and more becomes a global village, self-expression is influential. We never know who sees what we do, or how what we post affects the thinking or feelings of others about us. We can’t know how it has affected our prospects.
It seems that without doing harm to our social and images and personal relationships, we cannot prevent our friends from doing harm to us.
How about some restraint and consideration?
Paul TN Chapman
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