Social Media and Societal Standards

There are ways to behave at a cocktail party, as dictated by society. There are ways to behave on Facebook, as dictated by the digital society. The “real life” society has had hundreds of years to shape and evolve its social standards. Given social media came to fruition approximately 10 years ago, and it has evolved at lightning speed, the social standards that come with the digital world are ever changing. The rules of social media 10 years ago are vastly different than what they are today, so l wanted to do a time lapse of social media standards then and now.

Then:

I grew up in a world where my mother monitored my online presence closely. Nude photo leaks were every mother of a middle-schooler’s nightmare. Online predators were a real threat to the unsuspecting looking to simply make a connection with someone in the digital world. At a time when Facebook statuses were a feasible form of updating your friends, one was taught never post when the family was out of town or out of the house. Lastly, it was impressed upon every teenager that once they put something in writing or posted a picture in the digital world, it would live forever. Pressing delete was not the same as ripping up a note or throwing away a picture.

As I approached college, the online rules changed as Facebook statuses became less important and photos became more of the concern. My mother made sure there wasn’t a red solo cup within ten miles of my Facebook pictures. If it looked like I was partying, it would have put my college admissions at risk. Rumors floated around high schools that admission officers had ways to see “untagged” photos or get past privacy blocks. In addition to this, it also didn’t look good to post pictures in bikinis or limited clothing. Online was not a place for these photos to be posted because it conveyed the wrong message about the moral values of the poster. In fact, those who had entered the work force were still highly discouraged from posting pictures of their weekend excursions, as this could have effected their perception in the work place.

As I entered into college and began looking for internships, a new type of sharing started to become questionable. I used to post blog posts on my Facebook site, and aunts and uncles would reach out to my parents questioning the appropriateness of me chronicling my experiences studying abroad. Humor was the goal, so I shamelessly detailed things such as my first ride in an ambulance with a bunch of 20 something Australian ER medics because my roommate drank too much. My posts gave anyone on my social feeds a look into my actual life, but as a 21-year-old trying to enter into a creative field, I made the decision that people (and potential employers) could take it or leave it. Ironically, these inappropriate blog posts landed me an internship at NBC’s Late Night with Seth Meyers. These years were the beginning of the end when it came to people sharing everything about themselves on social media, and I was just an early adopter.

Towards the end of my college years, in about 2014 and 2015, social media started to be seen as a tool as opposed to a platform that could be only harmful. Celebrities and the media started posting anything and everything. A bikini picture started to be the mundane as opposed to a career killer, and people started feeling freer to catalog all of the moments of their lives as opposed to just the G-rated ones. Social media could be harmful to the person who “played sick” from work and posted their beach pictures, but otherwise it is understood that people have lives outside of their jobs. People are no longer (usually) discouraged from sharing their outside of work selves, and employers are actually starting to value employees with interesting hobbies and backgrounds.

Ultimately, while some rules such as “what is posted online lives their forever- whether it is deleted or not” remain the same, many of our social media standards have drastically changed. It has only been 10 years, but people’s acceptance of others expressing themselves on social media has increased dramatically.


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