Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Social Responsibility In Social Media (Or Living With An Ugly Tattoo)

I often write about social media, but I don't really talk about social responsibility within that realm. Lucky for you, today I get on my soap box.

I've seen some ugly tattoos in my life. I fact when I was a child I dreamed that when I reached that magical age of 18 I would get a cartoon Tasmanian Devil on my ankle. I loved watching him on Looney Tunes and I would cherish his little wild image mid-spin on my ankle. I wasn't thinking of forever, I was just thinking of the now.

Imagine now if I had gone through with it. There would be a pathetic meaningless brown blur of a cartoon on my grown-up ankle. Sexy. Removal or getting a really talented artist to make it into something else would be tedious.

The way we behave when it comes to social media  is - in a way - comparable to getting a tattoo. I think minors (and lots of adults) don't get the comparison. Or perhaps they think it doesn't really matter. 

The mark it might leave behind can be permanent, so it does matter. 

We have a responsibility to be aware of our online behavior and teach / monitor minors who use it. This is soooo important! Who is teaching them? Who are they learning from? And if the adults in their lives aren't aware (or don't know any better), what can we do to teach kids social responsibility online?

Most of us grew up in an age where we could forget our mistakes, knowing that who we were then may not necessarily be a reflection of who we are now. Maybe there's a photo we have shredded, a love poem we thew away, some clothes we wish we'd never worn, or a terrible fight with a relative we wish to move on from. We have the luxury of moving forward, leaving it to memories, maturity, forgiveness and time.

But this generation - if no one guides them - well their mistakes are archived forever, to be pulled up like evidence and relived at the most inopportune time, regardless of how many times they hit "delete."

And this could be very serious. Consider the posting of inappropriate photos / videos for their age, broadcasting the use of illicit drugs, memorializing under-age drinking, or the words used in a moment that would be construed as bullying or abuse.

Let's face it, people of all ages do stupid things in their lives, but do they need to be reminded of those things years down the line after they apply to college or their the dream job? Must all stupid things be done online? 

We can't prevent it all, nor should we restrict freedom of speech, but if nothing else, we can inform others to (at the very least) make an educated choice, before they share. We should at least care that much.

We've got to teach others to think of what they do online as potentially being a really tacky tattoo of a cartoon Tasmanian Devil mid-spin... maybe on their ankle, maybe on their face. It may be really hard to cover up or remove... so they better be willing to own up to it, should they have to explain it later.

What do you think? How do you educate / inform users of social media in real life?