Woe unto you if the internet can remember your ‘bad decisions’

Social media

Social media might choke and drag you down if you and others use it irresponsibly, or it might build you or your company up to heights you never imagined.

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My college friends and I were reminiscing about our younger years and came to the conclusion that we were very fortunate to not have grown up in the age of social media.

We counted ourselves quite lucky to have lacked a platform to parade our poor decisions in the spur of the moment for the whole world to see, embarrassing records that we could never erase. And which, horror of horrors, might have even gone on to become memes.

Content surreptitiously or knowingly posted on social media, depending on how damaging it is, has been known to tear to shreds, in a matter of minutes, painstakingly built reputations, costing one their job, robbing one of the social capital they spent years cultivating at the click of a button, and even bringing down companies in a day.

When I was in college, the students that owned mobile phones in the institution were not more than three, and even then, those models could only make and receive calls and text messages, and take blurry photos. At the time, we’d only hear rumours of something called ‘internet’, which had the “power to turn the world into a village.” We human beings were so in awe of it, we spelt it with a capital letter, no matter where it appeared in a sentence.

With this in mind, as you can imagine, most of the mischief we engaged in, and which our parents or teachers would have thrown a fit over, remained in Vegas. Our poor decisions, when we were young and foolish, are safe in our memories, and we feel secure in the knowledge that they will not pop up in a screen somewhere 20 years from now and embarrass our grandchildren.

Don’t get me wrong, we didn’t kill anyone, or something like that, but you get the idea – no one wants a moment of ill-advised foolishness to get thrown in their face for the rest of their lives.

Another advantage of having not grown up in the era of social media is the fact that our generation doesn’t suffer from FOMO. As a result, most have the luxury of choosing, wisely, if I may add, what they post about themselves online. In the process, they shield themselves from the damaging scrutiny we see every day in social media streets and being judged unfairly by strangers, no less, who have no qualms about mercilessly trolling you until the cows come home.

And woe unto you if your friends aren’t loyal, so to speak. They will take photos or videos of you during an unguarded, misguided moment and go on to post in social media without your consent with hashtags such as #aboutlastnight and #doyoubabygirl. Come morning, when your good senses return, horrified, you will demand that these so-called friends take down the humiliating video or photos, but of course, the damage will have been done because the content will have already travelled far and wide.

In a way, social media, with all its many advantages, is akin to a yoke. It might choke and drag you down if you and others use it irresponsibly, or it might build you or your company up to heights you never imagined. Either way, we cannot do without it, our lives are intertwined with it, and whether you get to partake of its many fruits or not depends on how competently you use it.

The writer is editor, Society and  Magazines, Daily Nation.   Email: [email protected] ke.nationmedia.com

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