Today is an awful, gloomy day – Monday to make things worse! It all started innocuously enough. The neighbour’s cat woke you at 4am serenading you under the window. Your heater got broke – again. You went to cross the street when the passing car drenched you from head to toe and now Becky from the sales department is giving you dirty looks for getting to work 5 minutes late. To add insult to injury, you look like a drowned rat.
What started as a mild frustration rapidly skipped over anger and you are now in full-blown Hulk mode. You are ready to let it rip and where better than somewhere you can be relatively anonymous – social media. No harm done, right?
Because There Are Only So Many Ways to Curse Using 140 Characters
Before the invention of Internet, we used to bite our nails, scream in a pillow, fume in the corner or, my personal favourite, shout from skyscrapers. And that is if you were not feeling particularly destructive.
The anonymity of blogs, forums and, in some ways, social media opened many doors. Now, you can share your annoyance and anger with the world so everyone can hear you, and each like or favorite you get is just another confirmation of how good of a idea that was. The behaviour has become so popular that there is even a social network dedicated to “expressing your feelings and connecting with people who care”, conveniently called Vent. Why would they?
However, while letting out tension is more beneficial than bottling it up, venting on social media is more like having a tantrum on a crowded street than screaming your frustration in a pillow. And there is no such thing as anonymous.
In 2015. we conducted a first survey in what will become a long-term research regarding how our online lives impact our offline ones, mostly our relationships and career development. It is then that we found out for sure that the first impressions are mostly made online and that searching for a persona you are about to meet or have heard of in passing is a common behaviour.
This year however, we learned how detrimental for our personal brands are all the ways we vent our disappointment with the world online. No matter how many of your friends may relate to your anger, the fact is that no one wants their news feed flooded with unreleased tension, anger, and negativity. You get reported for that. Or unfollowed, and you never even find out.
In some ways, we are aware of that. Our newest survey, conducted by Wakefield Research, showed that 47% of Americans, including 70% of Millennials, admit that potentially sensitive information is available about them online. The very first thing on the list are divisive political opinions (25%), followed by photos or posts related to drug or alcohol use (17%), complaints about work, a boss or a coworker (14%), and revealing or scandalous photos or posts (11%).
What Happens Online, Stays Online
You are feeling much better now that you released your pent-up frustration in your furiously typed blog post, and are ready to call it a day. You wake up all relaxed just to find out that your social media account exploded over night. Twenty minutes of letting steam are now the first things that come up when someone mentions your name – online and offline.
Alarmingly, our research showed that 19% of Americans, including 1 in 3 Millennials, don’t realize that deleting something online does not mean it’s gone forever. Hitting the delete button can’t rewind the time. As long as there are screenshots, there is not such thing as a private conversation.
While EU citizens can rely on the Right to be Forgotten, there is still no such thing for Americans. Your conduct online has a far more reaching impact than most of can imagine. Our online lives impact everything from casual acquaintances and job prospects to long-lasting friendships. 61% of Americans believe a person’s social media profile tells more about a person then their resume. What does your social media profile say?
Venting Is Not the Same as Standing up for Your Beliefs
Venting is beneficial, healthy even, but it’s not for social media. It’s still better left for your pillow, a punching bag in your gym or the top of the mountain. This does not refer to standing up for your beliefs. There will be times when you may feel provoked by the happenings in your community or in the world, and speaking up is very important. Feel free to do it, but do it in a way that will not paint you in a negative light.
66% of Americans, including 84% of Millennials, regret something they’ve posted online. Tip: count to ten before posting and go thorough this checklist:
- Is my behaviour/wording respectful towards my friends/followers?
- Would I be ok with my family, friends and employer seeing this?
- Would I be ok with my children seeing this one day?
If your answer to all of the questions above is Yes – type away. Just be aware that it will become a part of your brand. Be certain you can live with it.
Another smart thing to do is to make sure people see more of you online than a collection of random moments that don’t give the true you justice. Be proactive when it comes to your online narrative – create a personal one-pager or a website where you will have the chance to present the real you to the world – values and beliefs included.