I love my life online. I like using Facebook to plan nights out and catch up with old school friends, I like Twitter for live-tweeting TV shows and discovering like-minded people and I like Pinterest for having a tidy place to keep all the clippings and things online that inspire me. That’s not to mention the probably hundreds of blogs and social sites that I browse in a week to keep up-to-date with everything from news to nail art.
The only problem is, I’m starting to find myself somewhat over-conscious of what I choose to share online. This isn’t one of your, worried-I-might-get-stalked or please-don’t-take-my-bank-details stories, although those are genuine concerns, of course. What I’m more preoccupied with at the moment is the fact that if I express too strong or controversial an opinion or even wax lyrical too passionately about a brand or a product, then I’ll come in for a barrage of criticism, or leave myself vulnerable in the outside world.
It’s a multi-pronged attack. First of all, there’s the increasing numbers of employers using social media to have a look at both prospective and current employee’s habits, hobbies and interests. Don’t get me wrong, if you put it out there then you need to expect it to be read, and if you’re in breach of company policy then you’ve got what’s coming to you, but there’s a case of these things going too far. This article gives you an idea of how far some firms will go in terms of ‘interpreting’ your social media presence when deciding to give you a job, but I’ve even read of some ‘experts’ who can tell by frequency of tweets and updates how much annual leave an individual takes. What kind of world do we live in where I can’t share my joy on twitter at a day off which I work hard to be entitled to? I don’t know if I like it, but I certainly find myself thinking twice about tweeting about my occasional midweek lazy day for fear of giving off the wrong impression.
The next potential hazard comes in the form of what I like to generally refer to as ‘the pitchfork brigade’. I’m learning that they lurk in every corner of twitter, poised to attack on subjects as varied as what it means to be a feminist to their feelings on Death Row. Again, I’m all for voicing your opinions, and even for healthy discourse, but there’s a limit that a scary amount of people seem to be unaware of, and it’s making me nervous. Think about it, would you sit in a pub on a Friday night with a group of strangers who are enjoying an animated discussion and then wade in with a tirade of abuse that is largely uncalled for? I didn’t think so. It seems that it can be so easy for a comment to be viewed by an outsider, either completely in or out of context, and then for it to escalate to the point that you’re scared to log in. I just don’t like feeling that vulnerable.
Finally, I worry about losing favour with people who I actually like online. I know, I know, I need to develop a thicker skin and suck it up. I shouldn’t worry about what other people think, and who’s following me on social platforms, but I think there’s a real-life comparison to draw here too. There aren’t many people that a girl like me can count as close enough friends to say absolutely whatever I want to, and beyond this I have a much wider circle of friends and acquaintances who I would considerably moderate my conversational style with. The problem with life online is that it’s harder to differentiate between the two, and ultimately I don’t want to be punished for not being tech-savvy enough to work out a solution.
As a result of all of the above, I’m concerned that I’m becoming bland on the Internet. I’m becoming more nervous about speaking my mind more than I ever have been, so I’m keeping it vanilla so as not to offend anyone. Is there a happy balance to be struck, or am I destined to blow hot or cold on this one forever? Could it be time to go anonymous? I’m just not sure anymore!