It is unfortunate that social media has significantly denied today’s youths the deserved chance of making their youthful mistakes without putting them on enduring record. I cannot say with certainty that what you post on your social media pages will be still available to readers in twenty years’ time. Most likely it will. By 2041, it might even be possible for a street person to consolidate your social media activity into one customized story. All you have been up to on social media, for many years, could be in plain sight, at a single glance. By that time, there may even be publicly available e-logic capabilities to collaborate social media activity on your pseudo accounts too. While the overall trend in the information space is that there is growing pressure for increased individual privacy, you just cannot be sure that the world will not come to a point of complete openness about social media activities for the whole world to manage better the relevant societal challenges. It is also possible though that the social media platforms we use today will have been overtaken and sent off the stage by 2041. If that happens, possibly your current social media activity will be in an unreachable archive by that time.
Assuming that today’s social media platforms will be able to survive though, and that information about what you write on your profiles will be available to the public in the year 2041, you need to be sure that you will be able to live with it. When you are young, it is highly possible that you may be naïve and take things for granted. As such, the perceptions that other people hold of you may seem unimportant to you. Besides, the whole world still appears like a vast pile of opportunities, owed to you, waiting to respond to your energy of youth and offer what you need without you being necessarily cautious. For this reason, the young may be highly prone to disregarding the distant implications of how they use their social media platforms today. They are more likely to say things on these platforms, and then quickly forget about the scenarios and move on to other exciting ones. Then in years to come, what they have said and forgotten is likely to return to haunt them in ways they cannot imagine while they are still young. Even your current social media fans may form adverse opinions of you in future, as they themselves outgrow the unchecked innocence of youth.
There are various cases, including those of global celebrities who made social media posts in their teenage years and paid the price for those posts years later. A quick Google search will tell you more about these cases than I can fit in this commentary. Social media posts therefore have the capacity to cost you career opportunities, distort your potential business prospects and inflict a lot of harm on your person when you have long forgotten about the posts or even completely experienced a change in your views and opinions that you once held strongly and posted about. As such, when you mock other people on social media, or hurl insults and demeaning comments against other people’s posts, make your controversial statements, or employ excessively unconventional means to grow your social media audience, be careful and sure that you will be able to co-exist with your actions many years from today. What you say today when you are aged 25 may visit you with distastefulness when you are 45. Social media is systematically archiving all your utterances.
Your personal brand is made up of how you express yourself; you may be funny, caring, rude, empathetic, ruthless or anything else. This personal brand also draws from how you physically present yourself. Your style and appearance therefore matter a lot. Finally, your personal brand also gets influenced by what other people think about you. What people think about you is also determined by the first two elements of your brand as mentioned above. You do not have to start working to please all people or have everyone think positively about you but if you do not care at all about how you are perceived, you risk self-hurting extremism. You may indulge in what is excessively inappropriate and jeopardize the future of your personal brand through social media.
If you are not sure that you will be comfortable twenty years from now, with what you want to say on social media today, stay silent. If you do not care, it is also okay. However, you are not free to choose the perceptions other people form of you out of your utterances. And while you may not care today, you might care twenty years from now – a bit too late to correct what you are saying wrong today.
Raymond is a Chartered Risk Analyst and risk management consultant