I’m still toeing the line between a self-sufficient, tax paying adult and a hungry postgraduate hitting snooze too many times. Consequently, I spend Sunday evenings with my parents as an excuse to eat free food. With each family dinner comes thought-provoking conversation, and last Sunday was no exception.
My dad doesn’t have a Facebook profile. He has a Twitter account I set up for him three years ago that he’s never used. He told me he was reluctant to sign up for LinkedIn because he didn’t want anyone to know his business (even though he is a business owner).
I remember the day I made my first AOL Screen Name. My Myspace page was glammed out with a customized glitter background and perfectly curated song choices. I signed up for Facebook as soon as it was available for non-college students in 2006. I was an early adopter of Twitter. My entire life is deep-rooted in a digital archive.
This is the point where it would be easy to go the angsty ‘parents just don’t understand!’ route and write off my father as a lost cause in digital adoption. I still roll my eyes when he asks me questions about how to use his iPhone. Yet, his concerns about privacy and public perceptions in social media are fair and reasonable.
At any given time, we’re on the brink of our private lives surfacing to the public. Things we said years ago could face criticism if the right storm strikes. My adolescent Livejournal poems that make me cringe with embarrassment are readily available with a deep Google search. With apps like Timehop, it’s easy (and even fun) to nostalgically relive senior prom or laugh at a friend’s bad haircut. If you really wanted to find a picture of me sporting a shameful outfit or two, you could. I grew up online, and my mistakes did too. That’s a strange and terrifying feeling.
My generation has a cross to bear. We grew up using the internet without questioning it, and as a result we need to be more careful about the way we represent ourselves. I call this the ‘Curse of the Internet’.
The dinner conversation took a slightly morbid turn, in which I thought about how if I died, what would my Facebook profile say about me? As someone who works with a lot of brands on social, my ‘likes’ don’t always correlate to my true passions in life. My online presence is only the tip of the entire iceberg of who I am as a person. I’m reminded of the courageous TedTalk from Monica Lewinsky. In her words, “It is so easy to forget that ‘that woman’ was dimensional, had a soul, and was once unbroken.”
As I wrapped up my dinner rant with flushed cheeks and an adrenaline high, my dad looked at me calmly and said, “Nothing has changed.”
OK Dad, care to elaborate?
“Your grandpa always told me to think about my obituary. Treat every person as if they would be writing your obituary tomorrow. So, maybe your obituary isn’t in the newspaper. Your obituary is your Facebook page.”
I might be more advanced in social networking than him, but he is right on this one. The Internet is forever, and everything posted will remain in an archive for all eternity. There’s no hiding from the darkest corners of your history. But you do have the power to think about what you post. You weave your own story with every tweet, status update, and post you contribute to the world. Make it an obituary you would be proud to read.
Half-Hawaiian, full-Oregonian, Kelsey is first and foremost a devoted Shakira fan who is terrified of dinosaurs and space. Despite her young age, Kelsey isn’t into #selfies or trend-chasing, and prefers taking time to create quality original content, hence her side project: writing a children’s book.
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