Cast your minds back to the time before social networking, back to the days where you only used your mobiles for calls and texts and the internet was somewhere you built basic HTML websites to provide information or amusing animations. Yes, it is hard remembering that time, but it did once exist. It was, in many ways, a glorious time because, unlike today, people did not have a way (or indeed feel the need) to share every detail of their life with the world!
Now, I am a keen blogger, twitter user and I do indeed have a Facebook profile which I often check. So, in no way am I condemning or compaining about the existence or use of these types of sites. Indeed, there is something nice about knowing that when I am bored at home on my own one night, I can share the fact that "Angela Watling wishes she had some chocolate" with the world. But, this sort of freedom comes at a dangerous price. Imagine a different evening: you have had a sh*t day at work (one of those truely awful ones), the trains are screwed, it’s raining, you are tired and have a tonne of stuff to do at home. These sorts of things put you in a bad state of mind. So, what do people now do…? They get out their phones and log-on to a social networking site. In a few seconds, with no real thought, a rather abusive and irrational post insulting your colleagues and / or train company and / or your life is composed and sent off for everyone to see.
Now, not only are you tired and wet, stuck in a train station after a long day, but now everyone who ever knew you (or possibly never did) thinks you are miserable, a tad unprofessional and a bit of a pity-seeker. Okay, so that is a slightly extreme take on it and often you do get and deserve pity. But, my point is that, at times of stress, we don’t really think through what we are saying. Before, you would just have a verbal outburst at 1or 2 people. But now, those few words are imortalised online for everyone to see. Sure, you can usually delete them, but in the few minutes it takes for you to get that feeling of regret, someone will have read them. For a one off, people see it and then forget, but do it often enough and it starts to reflect on you as a person. Do it enough and you risk writing something which could offend a friend or worse cause you problems at work.
So, should we all take a step back from social networking and re-assess what value it brings us? Should we consider whether it is really the best forum for everything we want to say? Obviously it is a personal choice, but I know that after one or two incidents such as the above, on a bad day, my phone stays safely in my bag. Some opinions and comments are best left unsaid.