Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Is social networking leaving us too exposed as individuals?

I am writing as a young person that fully embraces the social media world of the 21st century. Self-confessed instagram addict, selfie show-off, tweeter and Facebook fanatic, I do enjoy all of the social networking facilities that are out there, but I do often ask myself - are we now too open as people? Are we jeopardising or in some cases enhancing our careers? And is there now any room left for traditional, old-fashioned, get-to-know-one-another conversation/spending time?

It is definitely the done thing right now to share all of our latest personal photographs, status updates, opinions and life details over social networking sites which not only connect us to our loved ones, but also to people who we wouldn't normally share such information with. I have to admit I always think twice about what to say in a status in case it may offend one of my "1000" friends. Chances are, something will always offend someone so I used to not saying anything at all, on the majority of occasions. However I have changed my attitude over caring what others think so much and I have decided to speak out more often and just be true to myself. This initially feels very liberating, however the openness of the internet and who might read such information is proving to make things more nerve-racking and daunting. "And why are you further broadcasting it in a BLOG?!" I hear you speculate. Well, truth be told I wanted to further explore what people think about the use of such social networking sites as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, and to consider to what EXTENT are these sites having an effect on the behaviour in our society.

It was only the other day that a gentleman came up to me and told me that he had googled me. I was at first, alarmed, then flattered (very shortly after - being an actress at times) and then... I became paranoid! I ran through questions in my head, searched for re-assurance from friends - do I have... is there? No! I know I do not have any dodgy material on the internet - but what is there out there, about me? It just alarmed me, how open the internet actually is, and how we all so willingly subject ourselves to it's domain. Social networking is a tool that can contain the power to affect our career, our social circle, our relationships, our life! People often warned me at University, that potential employers will often check your Facebook photos to see what kind of life you lead, before thinking about employing you. This is all too scarily true! Gone are the days when work and social life were kept completely separate. Now they are ever merging, and we are no longer able to hold up such a facade of infallible perfection at interview. True quite a lot of people have made careers using social networking sites, being able to market and promote businesses over Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and essentially do a lot of 'networking'. At the end of the day it depends what profession you are going in to, as to how open you feel comfortable with being on these sites.

On a different note, do social networking sites spoil part of the mystery of romance? If you connect with someone as friends, then you automatically have access to that persons endless photos, opinions, statuses etc. - not that you would STALK them, of course! Even down to things like texting - (which is a whole other ball game I will write a separate article about!) we digitally have the ability to always be in contact with someone if we choose to be. Where is the mystery in that? Where is the wondering when you two may bump into each other again - or better yet, if you have arranged to see someone again, just generally not talking via text until the next time you meet so that you actually have some real chat to catch up on. And you perhaps would look forward to seeing that person a lot more because you haven't spoken in say, a week! Part of the early stages of romance are made that much sweeter by the mystery, in my humble opinion. And social networking just leaves a person so entirely exposed - or does it?

This leads me on to my last point: the self, the persona that we present to others via social networking. Is it even actually the real us? I mean, are we presenting our true selves, or an idealised version that we want the world/society we live in, to approve of/agree with? Of course, everybody wants to be liked, but are we putting out too much of an idealised picture of our lives? Perhaps - to protect ourselves, self-preservation, self-pride, self-privacy! Which in my opinion, are all good motives. We live in an endless dilemma in my opinion, I believe all of us have paused at a status/ bad-ish photo/ quote, and thought, should I share this? What will people think/say? Will it be frowned upon or rejected? How open IS the internet? Will I be over-exposing myself? Just this afternoon I met with a guy who had gotten into enormous trouble over a very political hot potato that he had decided to tweet about. Sat at home, in the privacy of his own room, behind closed doors, he felt so safe, to share a controversial opinion via Twitter. I mean, it's only Twitter, surely? Just like my diary, online, no? NO. Little did he expect the BBC to be showing up at his workplace, with cameras demanding an apology. Little did he expect. Little did we all expect. See, I still believe that most of us are all still a bit internet naive. We have no idea who the majority of people are that read our tweets/statuses/blogs, which makes that all equally exciting as it is terrifying. My conclusion would still be, just to be yourself, and be as findable on the internet as you would be comfortable with. But keep some of the mystery.