Quick to talk and easy to stalk

We all have that one post we regret, whether on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook (if anyone even uses that anymore). Our generation has put more of our lives online than any generation before us – but that’s not news to anyone.

  I can’t even begin to count the number of dinner table conversations that have been spent with my parents and grandparents complaining about how the internet and all its faults are taking over the world. And to an extent, maybe they’re right.

  Somehow, the World Wide Web paradoxically allows our world to get smaller while our social spheres grow larger. Everyone has the ability to voice their opinions online. Freedom of speech and freedom of expression have never been as boundless – but never have they been more closely scrutinized.

  We pick up our phones faster than we’re willing to make a statement out loud. But there’s always that tiny voice in the back of our minds quietly warning us of the consequences that our words could have.

 Until now, our generation has had the privilege to be socially impulsive thanks to a wide array of online outlets, without seriously having to consider the repercussions. But now that we’re growing up and making plans, whether now or in three years, to leave our safety bubble of high school, we’ll have to start paying more attention to what we say and how it could affect both current reputations and future employment.

  With so much personal information available online, it’s nearly impossible to keep a clean slate. We delete old, risky posts and clear our Google search history, all in a futile effort to act as if we’ve never done a thing wrong.

  Which brings us to another issue: our generation’s obsession with presentation and appearances. Whether it’s the amount of time we spend fixing our hair every morning or the growing laundry list of unnaturally impressive achievements we put together for a better-looking college application, we are entirely engulfed in the idea of making ourselves look better than we really are.

  This contributes to a generation of technologically-addicted young adults who can sometimes be a little too keyboard-happy. We post with the intention of earning views, likes, shares, and retweets, for whatever superficial and temporary satisfaction we can gain from it.       

  It’s not necessarily a bad thing that we are able to have our voices heard so easily.  The only problem arises when you realize that not only are we saying things that we don’t always mean (or at least may one day regret), but that it’s not just our close circle of friends that’s seeing it.

  Social media allows for people, not just celebrities, to gain hundreds, if not thousands, more followers than even Jesus Christ did during his lifetime, and thanks to a small world with lots of connections, perhaps the ability to reach more minds.

  Not only that, but accessibility to our personal photos and statements is possible even if you’re on a “private” setting of the account.

  All of this makes us more vulnerable than ever, and more to ourselves than anyone else. When you think of threats to your “internet security,” you probably think of credit card hacks and identity theft.  But perhaps the ones we should be most afraid of are not the intimidating number of digital criminals out there, but rather ourselves, and our all-too-common inability to realize the permanence of our “temporary” words and posts.

 When it’s so easy to search and save what you see online, it’s almost an inevitable guarantee that, eventually, someone will find something to hold against you. Whether it’s from parents, future employers, or new friends, we won’t always be able to successfully hide our histories of crude language and unpopular opinions. But we’ve grown up to say what we mean, and to say it immediately, online, before we have the chance to think twice.

  Maybe the fact that we have this freedom isn’t all bad, but just different (and more candid). Social media and the internet gives us two potentials: the potential to create a facade and keep the “image” we want others to see, or the potential to be our most genuine, imperfect selves. The former will only contribute to our preexisting preoccupation with superficiality.  The latter will draw criticism without fail, no matter how hard we try to erase the footprints and round the edges of our electronically connected personalities.

   The millennial generation is finally growing into the workforce, which is what brings this issue to light in the first place. But soon enough, we will become the managers, employers, and parents, and perhaps we’ll be more forgiving than our predecessors toward the people who’ve made one too many mistakes with the illusively simple click of a button.

  

  

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