Note: I refer to a Facebook profile in this post; I removed my Facebook account several years ago. 19/07/2016
August. The month for writing. And my attention is caught by the recent PEW Internet Report which suggests that US millenials will continue to share information as they get older and take on more responsible roles. In other words – privacy is what people did in the past. ‘Sharing’ is the new black.
Hmmm – but what to share? Reality? The endless repetition of school, college, work, kids, cleaning and credit card bills?? Of course not. When did someone you follow last tweet about cleaning the oven? They didn’t. Social media requires us all to airbrush our lives into the kind of unreality mirrored on the covers of magazines – the ones where Madonna looks younger than her daughter and you are left feeling short and fat. Social media demands that we all use a special effects filter before uploading ourselves. We only tweet the nice things – specially chosen for their wit, charm, educational value and sheer brilliance. Are you sitting on the sofa watching a soap opera whilst eating mostly carbohydrate? No. Bet you are reading something on your college reading list, attending the ballet, practising the violin or spending quality time with the children – and for certain you are writing a book – an article at the very least – and that’s what it says on your Facebook status. It’s a bit exhausting – keeping up the charade. Hoping that no one you know ever sees the real you – the un-airbrushed horror. That, of course, is why I work as an academic from the seclusion of my attic. Ha! And at least having entered adulthood before computers were invented networked, (not a day over 28) I have escaped the need to drag around all the people who attended primary school with me (except Clare x). Nor do I have any idea what happened to those with whom I went to high school (except Sara and Karen xx). At least I have been able to move on – and quietly forget all those ‘friends’ who were never interested in me in the first place. But what of the millenials? Will it be easy to act as a managing director, when everyone on your friend list remembers you having a desperate crush on your French teacher when you were 11? Perhaps we will enter into a kind of bartering system, where no one mentions your bad calls, and you, in return, do not mention theirs. But …. oooh – the temptation. Remember all the times you thought you looked great/funky/clever/sexy/amusing? Well 30 years later those photos have a very different value. Only instead of fading in a box in the attic they are freely available on the net. And you don’t have to be a politician or a lecturer to squirm and flinch – anyone can experience the toe curling embarrassment at being reunited with their past. Pointed shoes/pink hair/rocky horror/snogging the guy who married your best friend – all give your followers cheap thrills. I have written previously on the niceties of ‘deleting’ (see Delete by Viktor Mayer Schonberger…) – where stuff you upload has an expiry date, after which it self-implodes. But the technology is not quite there yet. So if you upload it – it stays for good. For the amusement of all. Especially your children. And anyone who works for you. And what of de-friending? Will it become as socially acceptable as de-cluttering your wardrobe? Carthartic perhaps? But can you ever be invisible to someone just by de-friending them? Nah … go Google …. or friend a mutual friend.
So what to do ? How much should we share? How much can we get away with? (ok – 36 then ..) and in any case what is everyone else ‘sharing’ about you? Worried who has access to your medical records? How can we stop them? Ever been ‘tagged’ in a photo you didn’t sanction? What about a video of all your lectures, even the ones you haven’t really delivered before and where you look like a troll? Especially those. In high definition.
Sigh. Can’t take on the entire world. Just have to hope that I haven’t said anything *really* bad or worn anything *really* un-photogenic. I am in fact, rather a non-entity when I Google myself, (yeah sad), but nonetheless, I have given some thought to my social media profile. As an academic, I think it is beneficial to project a warm, savvy persona – someone who has insight into library and information science, and an interesting way of commenting on and interpreting the ideas of others in my field. I would hope to be convincing as someone you feel should be in charge of the class. So everything I tweet, blog or facebook does have a bit of a spin. I don’t mention bad hair days, or who I’m dating right now – I do try to mention anything relevant to LIS, and of course anything which will persuade you that I spend all my time reading, watching science programmes, attending lectures, exhibitions and art galleries, with just the right amount of cookery school classes, 80s pop concerts and walking on the beach in the rain – all to convince you that my life is really absolutely fabulous.
(ok – 49 then).