Social media posts don’t mirror personal interactions

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As seen in the March 28 print edition

Marguerite Alberts, spotlight editor

 Abraham Lincoln once said that it is “better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.” We are taught to apply this old adage when interacting with others. However, it appears that we forget this lesson when communicating on a cyber platform.

As the use of social media increases, we are frequently encouraged to think before pressing “enter” by friends, schools, parents; we even had an entire assembly dedicated to the correct standards of our presence online.

Our face-to-face interactions, though, require significantly less scrutiny. When most people have conversations with others, they don’t need to consciously think about what they say. There are certain things that we would never tell others to their face because we fear the reactions that we would receive. Yet, we seem to have no compunction about spilling any thought that comes to mind onto social media sites.

No matter the purpose for using sites like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, be it for business or pleasure, social media is a conversation. We don’t post solely for our own enjoyment. If we didn’t want everyone to see the things we do or have opinions about our actions, then we would have a personal diary that no one could find. When we are passionate about something, whether that something is political, professional or personal, an inherent part of our human nature wants to share it with the world. We post to gain attention from “friends” with the intention of sparking discourse.

However, there is a clear difference between the conversations that occur in person and the conversations that happen online. The computer serves as a barrier, preventing and protecting us from the sometimes unfavorable reactions of others. The little filter in our brain that would normally stop us from saying clearly stupid things stops working when there is a screen in front of us.

Furthermore, we forget that our tone is not always correctly perceived over the Internet. Even if we think we are simply joking around with our friends, tone is not always clearly communicated. Remember, it’s not only the intended receiver who reads the things we post. Because the posts are generally public, our other friends, family and acquaintances, as well as their other friends, family and acquaintances (depending on the privacy settings) can all read what may have been directed at one person.

So, to repeat what has quickly become a mantra for this technologically adept generation, turn that filter in your brain back on when in front of a computer, smart phone, tablet or anything else that has access to the internet and consider the implications of what you are posting before you press enter.

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