Putting yourself out there

Thoughts on social networking and public information

| Forum Editor

Ever feel like you’re being watched? Recently, I watched a video on YouTube that I made 6 years ago with my friends from middle school. More interestingly, there were comments and responses from random people about our video (which I did not know was posted online). And last week, my mom told me about a Diwali show in University of Michigan for which some kids watched my previous Diwali performance on YouTube and performed it exactly the way I did. I felt both proud and creeped out, realizing that other people can have access to parts of my life that I sometimes don’t realize are public.

As we move into the professional world, accompanied by worries about interviews and making good impressions, we sometimes forget the social Internet footprint that we leave. We’ve all read articles about how some people mess up on online social sites like Facebook and MySpace, and later we tell ourselves that we are not stupid enough to do such things. But upon closer inspection, most of us have some incriminating photos or videos which can definitely come back to haunt in the future. How can we prevent this in a society where we feel a need to put ourselves out there with programs like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube?

More importantly, we should take a closer look at the direction our generation’s society is going in. In this day and age, information that we put on the Internet can be a double-edged sword: We are easier to contact, but that means our info is also easy to find. But you say, “I only use social networking sites for staying in contact with people.” How many of your Facebook friends do you actually stay in communication with? (And no, an occasional “Happy B-day” post or a “Like” does not count).

We seem to be getting closer to one another technologically, but we are getting farther from each other regarding social correspondences. E-mails to friends are rare and written letters are almost never seen nowadays, yet we see a constant need to add more people on our social networks so that we can “remember” them.

Still, there are worse things out there than Facebook, Twitter and MySpace. Remember the good old days when you had to have an AIM account or another instant messaging account to meet random people in chat room? Now, sites like Omegle enable us to start a conversation immediately without any input of information. My curiosity got the better of me when I checked out the site, and I began a conversation with a stranger. The ease with which we can meet strangers online today is extremely disturbing, but paired with the fact that we put our info out in cyberspace, they increase the danger of information falling into the wrong hands.

In the end, we still have enough of decency and sanity to realize that social networking programs are tools for safe enjoyment. However, Wash. U. students tend to forget that we live in a bubble that does not exist in the real world. So remember, as you leave the bubble to seek outside jobs, click the “remove tag” button on that photo that you barely remember taking of you kissing a Ronald McDonald statue.

Aditya is a junior in Arts & Sciences. He can be reached via e-mail at asarvesh@artsci.wustl.edu.