Social Media Common Sense

Dr. Lorin Bradbury, author of "Treasures from an Old Book, Ancient Wisdom for a Modern World".

by Dr. Lorin Bradbury

Question: This really isn’t a question; it’s more of a request. I made a terrible mistake. One day when I was angry, I posted some rather embarrassing things about my husband on Facebook. It nearly cost me my marriage. I wish I were the only one who had ever done such a thing, but I see it’s being done regularly. Even though I knew it was going public, it seemed so private. Please comment on the dangers and risks of behavior such as mine.

In order to respond to this, I had to do a little homework. I Googled “social media etiquette,” and received 11,300,000 possible sites to select from. Very quickly, I realized that researching that many sites was going to take a while. The second site offered was “The Ultimate Social Media Etiquette Handbook” by Tamar Weinberg. She stated the following: “Social media mimics real relationships — in many cases. Would you do the following within real face-to-face relationships?

▪Jump on the friendship bandwagon without properly introducing yourself?

▪Consistently talk about yourself and promote only yourself without regard for those around you?

▪Randomly approach a friend you barely talk to and simply ask for favors — repeatedly?

I have counseled a number of people face-to-face, not face-to-space, who have hurt others by comments they made on one form of social media or another. Also, I have counseled those who have been hurt by those who either carelessly, or purposefully, sent comments or pictures into cyberspace, forgetting that there are real people with real feelings on the other side of cyberspace.

Probably one of the best rules for using any form of social media is to exercise common sense, which seems to be in short supply these days, and might better be called “uncommon sense.” Common sense seems to dictate that one never post something, or make a statement about someone that you would not be willing to say to that person’s face. I have been to a couple of seminars that addressed these issues. Professionals are raising a concern that people who spend too much time utilizing social media may develop a distorted sense of reality in which the computer screen becomes a shield behind which they hide.

Many fail to recognize that once something is digitized, it takes on a life of its own. I am very careful of what I write, even in emails because more than once I have sent someone an email that was intended for no one else, only to learn that the recipient had forwarded it to others.

I once received an email from a friend. Examining the email, I saw that it had information in it not intended for public consumption. Apparently, the email began as a confidential email, but after going back and forth several times between two people, one decided to add a funny story. Without thinking, my friend forwarded the funny story to me, but at the bottom of the email was the original confidential email. I just happened to scroll down to the bottom and noticed that there was information not intended for me. I immediately, contacted my friend and suggested he try to contact everyone he had sent it to and have it deleted. The truth of the matter is, once the send button is pushed, it has become public.

For some time, I have been concerned about what people post on sites such as Facebook. I have known those who tried to woo an estranged spouse or significant other back by posting derogatory information about them. That is nothing other than manipulation. That is an example of a lack of common sense. And to be manipulated by that is even more a lack of common sense. Why should anyone go back, or want to go back, to a person who says bad things about him or her, and uses it as a form of blackmail to manipulate and control.

Similarly, I have been concerned about those who post pictures, or make comments that present themselves in compromising situations (for the whole world to see). Prior to Facebook, or other forms of social media, these same individuals would never have considered sharing pictures of themselves in such compromising situations. This is an example of the loss of reality, a dulling of the senses, and a loss of moral aptitude.

In recent years, we have begun to hear about sexting—sending pictures (usually nude) of oneself. Frequently, the pictures are intended for a boyfriend or girlfriend. (Since when is it appropriate to send nude pictures of yourself to anyone?) Let me remind you, once that picture is digitized, it is permanently somewhere. Again, this is an example of the loss of reality, a dulling of the senses, and a loss of moral aptitude.

Why is all of this so disconcerting? It may be that we are more connected than ever before, but less connected than ever before. In the process of forming connections and communities, people may be losing the ability to truly communicate. Lonely, disconnected people boast of the thousands of connections they have. Is that really being connected? Is that really community?

How might all of this affect your future? It is well known that prospective employers now check Facebook and other forms of social media to see how you behave. If an employer finds you have violated social media etiquette, most likely you will not get that job.

So before you text, or post, or push the send button, ask yourself, “Would I want the whole world to know this? Or see this?

Lorin L. Bradbury, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in private practice in Bethel. For appointments, he can be reached at 543-3266. If you have questions that you would like Dr. Bradbury to answer in the Delta Discovery, please send them to The Delta Discovery, P.O. Box 1028, Bethel, AK 99559, or e-mail them to [email protected]