Thursday, April 5, 2012

Advice for Facebook Posters

Two items on the news this morning highlighted the fact that the sensible use of social media lobby still has a way to go. The story about the three Adelaide school girls and their sexual favour video and the racist Facebook comments of the Energy Watch CEO reminded me that there's still a lot of education to be had in the field of social media so I jotted down some of the points that I try to get through to the kids at school. I think they are valuable to everyone.

1.The Ostrich Approach
This has two parts.
a) Don't be an ostrich parent, as in, 'If I can't see it, it doesn't matter'. If your kids are into social media (and they are) then you must at least be aware of how the process works and what programs they are using.Your child's Facebook account is not a private diary. You should have visual access to what they are saying and reading online. In my opinion if they don't want to add you as a friend then they shouldn't open an account. At the very least, you should insist on being able to look at their wall from time to time. Just as you should know who and where they are meeting people in the off line world, it's your right and duty as a parent to know who their friends and meeting places are in online spaces. This may sometimes cause discomfort and embarrassment for you or your child. That's OK. It will also provide a safety net and a social conscience that teenagers aren't always able to provide for themselves.

b) Don't be an ostrich poster. Just because you can't see the thousands of people who are seeing what you write doesn't mean they aren't real. Facebook is a public forum. When you post on a friend's wall, lot's of other people see what you write. Would you say those things if your friend's Grandma or Aunty was in the same room? Unless you've been very careful with your privacy settings and filters, it's not just your friends who are seeing your posts, it's your friend's friends and the friends of those friends. Just because you've refused to have your mum as a contact doesn't mean your friends' friends' friends have!

2. Potty mouth
Most people swear. I swear. I swear in context and sometimes I embarrass myself by swearing. However, just as I don't swear in my classroom, I don't swear on social media because that's stupid. People judge you when you swear and even though you might think you're being all grown up and edgy by dropping f bombs, you aren't. You just make yourself sound stupid because clearly you have no better words to use.

3. Fishing for sympathy. 
If something bad happens to you then it's ok to let people know via social media. In fact sometimes it helps spread the word and you don't have to add the awkwardness of having to repeat the news. But the constant whining and 'crying wolf' thing is just plain painful. Go back and check your last 20 status updates. If more than two of them were of the 'Why me?, I'm so over it' variety, get yourself a happier outlook or a counsellor.

4. Portray the person you want to be.
You won't always be the hormone overloaded, angst filled teenager or immature adult you are today. Sooner or later you are going to be part of the real world of jobs and lasting relationships. One day you may have children of your own. Every time you post something on Facebook, imagine a prospective employer reading it. Every time you upload a photo, imagine the mother of your future boyfriend/girlfriend looking at it. How will your children feel when they look back at your digital image in 10 or 20 years time? I'm an employer and I promise you that when I get job applications or requests for student teacher placements, I always check out the applicant's digital footprint. I'm also a mother and I'm honest enough to admit that I have googled every one of my girls' boyfriends.

Instead, actively build your own, positive digital image. Use social media for powerful, personal promotion. Start creating a positive footprint for yourself and it will pay off in spades later on. Create the type of image that you will be proud to produce as an accessory to your resume. One of the benefits of the Facebook timeline is that you can be selective with your history. Just show the good bits. Present a positive face online. Celebrate your successes in words and pictures. Join groups and like pages that reflect the positive aspects of your personality. Disassociate yourself with pages that may reflect poorly on you.

5. There are no permanent erasers in cyberworld.
You can delete and edit posts & photos but chances are if you post something offensive, someone will have screen shotted it or saved it or forwarded it and it will come back to bite you. Our kids learnt about the speed of the internet when we did our Teapotting experiment last year.This applies to phone convos as well as inbox messages. It's pretty embarrassing to see a private text message appear on someone's Facebook wall but it's happening more and more frequently.

6. Fishing for compliments.
'Like for a like'. Worse still, 'like for a rate'. What are you hoping will happen when you ask someone to rate your looks? Do you seriously want to be publicly compared to everyone else? There's nothing but misery to be gained from this. Unless of course you are a confident, drop dead gorgeous super model and everyone rates you a 10. Then you're asking for misery for everyone else who is rated less than you and that's mean and clearly you aren't as confident as you thought!

7. Save the sexy photos for your MTV career.
Anything that involves a view of your cleavage from above, a lack of underwear, pouting lips or provocative poses in the mirror will come back to haunt you when you get old enough to realise you actually look a bit silly pretending to be a Playboy bunny. These photos will also invite insulting comments from acquaintances on your friend's list and that will more than likely lead to an online fight and you will get upset and defensive and so on and so on. Worse still, your photo could end up in a much nastier corner of the internet and you really don't want to think about the sort of people who might be ogling it there. It's much easier to wear extra clothes in your profile pictures :-)

8. Impersonating other people is illegal. 
It may seem funny when you hack someone else's Facebook page but usually it's not. At the very least, you'll embarrass them. At worst you'll get yourself or them into serious trouble. If you're an adult and you're still 'fraping', stop being such a bad role model.

9. Remove inappropriate posts. 
If someone does hack your wall with something inappropriate, remove it. Don't just leave it there and explain it away by saying you've been hacked. It's like being a bystander to bullying. The people who see it on your wall will think less of you and it will become part of your digital footprint. If you're scared you'll lose face with the hacking friend if you take it down, you probably should re think the friendship. If you have to, use the trusted adults in your online space as an excuse. 'I had to take it down or Mum will kill me'.

10. Don't spam! 
Back in the good old days, we called them chain letters and we taught our kids not to allow threats of bad luck or promises of good fortune to suck us in to forwarding them to other people. Activism is one thing. As Kony2012 proved to us, Facebook is a great way to get your message out there, but don't be manipulative in the process. Anything that begins with '97% of people won't repost this but my real friends/people who love me/ones who care will' is obnoxious.

I have more advice ( in fact I'm full of it!) but 10 points is apparently the golden number for blog posts.
If you have some timely advice for social media users, please add it in the comments box.