Have you ever tried to Google your name? I just did. Without even clicking on a search result, I can see my full name, my hometown, the town I currently live in and that I attend Weber State University.
I have a Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, FourSquare and Vine account. I also have countless other accounts I can’t even remember that I must have created on a whim at one point on social media sites that never took off.
Between all of this, there is a lot of information about me online. One could potentially find out anything, from my favorite color to my dogs’ names to where I am at any given moment of the day, and that’s pretty scary.
Personal privacy is virtually nonexistent these days, pun intended. Chances are you are not careful about the information you post online. Even if you are extremely careful about what you post publicly about yourself, chances are your friends aren’t so careful about what they post about you.
Social media is causing generation after generation to be more and more comfortable with sharing everything about their lives with their hundreds of “friends” and “followers.”
It gets worse.
The first social networking site was called SixDegrees, and it made its debut in 1997. SixDegrees was followed by Friendster, which was followed by MySpace, which was followed by Facebook. There’s a brief history for you.
The point is, the concept of posting your information online in order to connect with friends is relatively new. It’s new enough that most of us, being students and faculty of WSU, were able to personally create our own online identity.
I remember making my MySpace page and my Facebook page. My parents, my grandparents, my aunts and my uncles were not on these networks at the time. They had not spent the first decade or so of my life posting baby pictures and embarrassing stories on their timelines about me.
This is the scary situation in which we are putting this generation’s young children. Every time you put up a picture or video or post anything with your child’s name plastered on it, you are contributing to the child’s online identity.
Imagine years down the road, an employer uses Google to do a little research on your child. Maybe that cute little story about how your teenager caused some mischief with his or her friends isn’t so cute to the employer. Maybe your child isn’t hired as an adult because, as a teen, he or she played a prank that made him or her look like a troublemaker.
Maybe this is a little paranoid. Maybe it doesn’t have to be quite this dramatic.
Imagine a couple years down the road, your young child is starting school. What happens when he or she faces ridicule because a bully at school found an embarrassing picture online? That photo of your child with spaghetti all over his or her face may be adorable to you and your friends, but as your child gets older, that kind of thing can feel like the end of the world.
These scenarios may seem farfetched, but that may simply be because this reality is so new to us. Like it or not, it is the reality, and these are things we need to start thinking about.
Some would argue that there’s no use in fighting it. The digital age is upon us whether we like it or not. Our information is no longer private, and that’s just the way it is.
I’m not suggesting that you hide away from technology in an Amish community (unless that’s how you roll, then more power to you), but we could all benefit from being a little more private with our private lives.