I really like social media. Each venue has a lot of pros and are a great way to keep connected. Though, I'm still not totally sold on Twitter. I've never caught on to that character limit thing. But one aspect of social media that I find a little strange is the fact that it stores everything.
Social media gives you the ability to look back and see the past. Every comment and status has been saved. Our history is forever embedded, unless you take the initiative to delete it, which can be easier said than done.
Now, you usually have to be looking for the old, but sometimes it will just pop up. Facebook allows you to travel back to the creation of your profile and you are still able to comment on posts and pictures.
It's kind of like a revamped yearbook, but it's free for everyone to see, unless you've enacted strict privacy settings.
When I've been bored, I've ventured back on my own Facebook timeline and read past posts and conversations. Most of what I find is funny, but some things I don't like revisiting. You move on from certain people and situations in real life, but it's left on the World Wide Web, and in a way it feels kind of unhealthy to view. Just because you have the ability to look back doesn't mean you have to.
This is especially true with Myspace, a social media site that most people don't visit anymore, at least I don't. If you have an old Myspace profile and decide to check it out, fair warning, it's super weird. It's hilarious, but weird. For me, it's been frozen in the year 2010, since that's when I last updated anything. A lot of people probably haven't even touched it since high school and those slightly older than me probably never had a page or care in the first place, so this topic is irrelevant.
But, I think it's safe to say that the majority of people in today's society do use the Internet. Myspace is a thing of the past, for most, but Facebook is definitely common among almost all age groups. All of this online activity that we are involved in has become part of what's known as a digital footprint, or an online presence.
Everytime we do something online, be it post a video or picture, comment on message boards or interact with Facebook friends, we leave a trace of ourselves. This activity is left for whoever finds it. Even what you search for in Google can be saved to the memory of your computer. There have been cases of people being arrested because the police/government were able to trace past searches, which then helped lead to a conviction.
And we've heard of countless politicians getting into trouble for text messages or emailed pictures that show up years after they've been sent. Once you release information you don't know who might get ahold of it, no matter how reliable you think the recipient may be or how guarded you think your profile is.
Now obviously, most of us will not find ourselves in the position of having our computer's inspected, but potential employers love searching for potential employees and seeing what they can find. Some employers even document your computer use while you're on the job.
We must be smart with what we make public to others. It's important to manage your Facebook account wisely, along with other online involvement. It's OK to create privacy for yourself.
Social media has created a whole new realm of communication and with it comes a new thought process. Our history is no longer only remembered with family photo albums, but also through conversations on Facebook. Every life decision is now documented and it's up to us to decide what we want left behind.
I recently read an article by Relevant magazine that touched on a similar topic, which ended with a valuable statement. The internet doesn't forget.
(Laura Reed is a desk editor at The Review. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org)