Every once in a while I take a moment to say a very sincere thanks to God that the internet was not really all that useful while I was in school. Sure, I had email in college, but I maybe checked it once per semester. I'm not sure anyone really knew my email address, mostly because it was sooooo long. Seriously. It was something like Jmn002@louisiana.tech.edu.forum.college.mail. giveusyourfirstbornandwewillgiveyouyourmail.com.
(I am more amused than you can possibly image by the fact that I just had to manually remove an automatic hyperlink from that monstrosity!)
Anywho, I remember enough about what my teenaged and young adult-aged self was like to know this: I would have been a disaster on the internet. Sure, it would have made research for school a lot easier, though I wouldn't give up my mad encyclopedia-using skillz for anything, but the social side of it would have kicked my butt. I would have been one of those people who "said too much" in her status updates. And don't even get me started on Twitter. I'm pretty sure I would have put my entire heart, soul and mind out there and it would more than likely have resulted in some comments that broke my heart and spirit and caused me to become a hermit.
Fortunately, by the time I started using the internet on a daily basis, I was in my mid-20's and holding down my first real job. Also fortunate is the fact that as a stage manager, I generate a ton of electronic and paper communication, much of which is sensitive in nature, so everything I say is very calculated. Tone is extremely hard to convey in writing sometimes, so word choice is uber-important. This little lesson has saved me much anguish in this day and age of constant status updates, microblogging and the like. Before I hit post, I always read and re-read what I've written, taking into consideration who might see it and what conclusions they might draw from it.
One thing Marcus and I try to drive home to our students and young proteges is the fact that something as innocent as a status update or tweet can play a big role in your life and career. One of the first things I do when I get a new cast list or find out the name of a new assistant is google them or, at the very least, search them on Facebook. (I would be shocked if they didn't do the same to me.) While you're in college, it may seem fun to post crazy pictures of all your Friday night antics. Those of you who are my Facebook friends may have scrolled through my photos and seen lots of pictures of me dressed like a cow for a Halloween party in college or dancing the night away in high school. And I think that's fine. It shows a bit of my personality and those pictures are not anything I'm ashamed of. Know what I un-tagged? Pictures of me attending a white trash party while working summer stock. Now those, my friends, were some fabulous pictures, and I'll admit that it hurt a part of me to remove them. However, potential employers, particularly those of the academic variety, do not need to see my four-months-pregnant self dressed in a red terrycloth jumpsuit, bra straps a-flyin', sporting a hat that says, "Dixie Darlin." Some things are better left inside old-fashioned photo albums that can be closed and locked away in a closet.
One of the biggest pitfalls for young folks today is tweeting about work. Something crazy may be going on that you just NEED to get out. But is Twitter really the best place to air your dirty laundry? What if the person you're talking about (especially if it's your supervisor) happens upon that tweet? Would it then be worth the 5 minutes of satisfaction and possible replies you got from saying it online in the first place? Instant gratification from things like Facebook, Twitter and instant messaging are HUGELY important to this generation of young adults and that's something I have to remain aware of as an educator. I'm also an awfully big fan of that whole Freedom of Speech thing. However, I cringe every time I see a tweet that says something like, "God, I hate my job. Only 3 hours left in this horrible place. Can't this skanky woman pour her OWN coffee?" Could you not just THINK that to yourself, rather than putting it out there for the entire world, a world which includes the skanky woman asking you for coffee?
I really have no idea what made me feel like I needed to hop up on the ol' soapbox about this today, but it's something I find both fascinating and slightly dangerous. I think steps need to be taken, maybe as early as middle school, to educate kids about using social media in a smart way. I absolutely plan to talk about all these things with Dean when he starts using the internet in 25 years. (25 because I think he should be internet savvy a few years before he starts dating, you see.)
What are your thoughts? Are you more on the "It's my Twitter and I'll say what I want to" kind of person or are you all about calculating what you say like me?