The Amazing Rise of Social Media Manners

Today’s most popular NY Times story is called, The Tell-All Generation Learns to Keep Things Off-Line by Laura M. Holson. Its point is simple: college students are slowly starting to realize that it might not be in their best interest to daily inform their Facebook network of their most intimate and banal thoughts. Min Liu, one of the students profiled in the piece, says, “I want people to take me seriously.” Whether you can or not is your call, but Liu’s anxiety is shared by a growing percentage of young adults.

Social media might have gotten a little too social. In a world where your boss, distant relatives, and old-flames can track your daily activities the temptation to go off the grid becomes increasingly more reasonable. People are starting to itch for the old, face-to-face, way of sharing stories and news. Already projects like Diaspora are starting to crop up that offer people a way to connect with privacy and security. New sites that can promise the advantages of social media without all the privacy worries will begin to emerge and grow.

That social media is developing a shy side is ironic. The sum total of Facebook user uploads, links, pictures, and updates is somewhere in the neighborhood of 25 billion unique pieces of content. That’s an overwhelmingly large number, but the fact remains that the content you upload is no longer yours, no longer private, and can be seen by people you don’t really like. It’s no surprise that college students who are starting to get internships and jobs are thinking twice before they post their party pictures or blog about their “favorite pizza” toppings.

What’s shocking about these new privacy concerns and the fresh outcrop of online manners is that they didn’t appear sooner. One worried student in the NY Times reported, “I have to look out for me.” The revelation, while appropriate, seems delayed. Why wouldn’t someone look out for their reputation online? The obvious answer is no-one expected social media to become embraced by future employers, in-laws, and friends. Who would have guessed that social media would saturate every level of a person’s social world? Now that social media looks like it’s going to stick around, people are going to have to take it more seriously. Think twice before you tell the enduring social media world about your private affairs.

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