It’s a new academic year in the Southern Hemisphere and so we begin a new round of Social Media Safety lessons.
They exhaust me – both in their naivety and in the willingness of others to like the post and therefore preach a message they themselves haven’t taken on board.
What would be of greater value is for the schools to get the kids to find the posts just like this one that have been made and catalogue the relative success of the posts and to distill what any changes might mean.
Questions I’d like the kids to be asking:
- Do more adults participate now than, say, 5 years ago?
- Does that change reflect that more adults are using facebook or does it reflect greater concern?
- How hard was it to find a post like this from 2010?
- How hard is it to find, using a search engine, a post you made last year? or the year before?
- When you search in Google for your own name do you find information about yourself? Does this differ if you are logged into Google or logged out?
- How do you feel about the information Google gives when you search for your own name? Neglected? targetted? proud?
- Are you more concerned about someone far away that you don’t know seeing a negative image or post about you – or someone in your community?
We tell kids that the photo of them comatose in a pool of vomit will stay with them forever, that future employers will find it by scrolling through their facebook page or by searching. That was, once, true. I doubt it’s true now. I get exhausted scrolling through my own page looking for something I’ve referenced.
If someone plays up at 16 by the time they’ve grown up, got their degree and had more staid images posted to their wall, or their friends’ walls, it’ll be those images that the employer sees – if they can find you at all.
Few of us have distinctive names like the unfortunate “Saxon Stempa” whose efforts to engage the media to generate sympathy for her housing plight backfired when all that could be found online about her were gang references and invitations to party hard at her house.
5 years ago a search on my name had me sharing the first page with a model who shares my name. We’re now both eclipsed by the many others who are out there living their lives, wholesomely, and getting ranked in Google and that’s OK.
So, to all the high school kids having the fear of God drummed into them, relax. Behave well, be proud of everything that you do and if someone catches you stuffing up occasionally, put things right but don’t get uptight about the fear of people finding that one random image years down the line. All the good positive things you do will be found long before that one.