If I had a dollar for the number of times a teen/young adult has told me that it doesn’t matter what they post on Facebook, Twitter etc, ‘they’re kids and it won’t affect them’, well, I’d probably have enough money to eat out at a really fancy restaurant.
This isn’t a new idea – as a teen, I thought the stuff I put on my livejournal or MySpace could not possibly have an impact in my life. But the difference between then and now was that back then, it wasn’t open to the same kind of publicity as Social Media then. Even though it was still considered a form of ‘social’ media, more often than not, it was kind of an anti-social media. Many of us used those spaces to hide our deepest, darkest thoughts; the things we wanted the rest of the world never to see, but didn’t feel our diaries were the right place for it.
Now, it’s out there for the world to see. Most tweens and teens rarely employ security settings, leaving the content they publish for the world to see. There are many adults guilty of this too; somehow believing that because it’s on the internet they can say whatever they want, behave however they want, and be completely absolved of consequences.
But that’s not the case. Employers are checking up on people’s social media accounts to see what kind of person they are, and whether they’re a fit or a potential liability for the company.
And those public tweets sent when you were 14 could very well be the thing that throws you off your career goal, like this former Calgary Liberal Candidate . Something she had posted as a teenager surfaced; and then more and more. Tweets that were stupid teenaged behaviour not only derailed her political career (at least for now), but also caused a lot of people to lose respect for her.
As one person I spoke to pointed out, some of the worst of the tweets were written when this Candidate was 18, a mere three years ago. While yes, a person can change a lot in three years, it seems like a rather radical change to go from telling someone that their mother should have used a coat hanger, to becoming a sympathetic open-minded individual. It is possible, and I’m not saying that she didn’t undergo some big revolution in her life that made her realize what a douchecanoe she was as a teenager. She may genuinely be an awesome person now.
But when you don’t even address the fact that you used to be a douche online, because you were ‘just a kid’, and it surfaces, there are not going to be a whole lot of people that trust you after that.
And while this is a situation that played out nationally, most won’t. But it doesn’t mean that those awful, hateful tweets and Facebook posts you wrote calling your ex-girlfriend a whore or making some racist comment aren’t going to come back to bite you. Those pictures of you smoking up at a party when you were 15 could be the thing that costs you a great job, or an amazing opportunity.
How you behave now WILL have an effect on you as an adult. Turning 19 does not immediately absolve you of the consequences of breaking the law or being an idiot.
Moral of the story: I don’t care if you’re 13 or 30, or 65 going on 100. Don’t run your mouth on the internet. It doesn’t protect you from the consequences of your ignorance; it just means a far larger audience has access to it, and the ability to hold it against you.