As a kid, my Dad used to tell me to never put something in writing (or say something for that matter) that I wouldn’t want on the front page of the newspaper. I’ll admit I have not always followed that advice (which is why it’s lucky I’m not running for President), and it’s no mystery why this is a fitting time to ask ourselves: What shouldn’t we put in writing?
It’s a hard question to answer, because how often people get in trouble for what they put in writing is a bit ironic: We’re in a world that celebrates complete transparency. In fact, it demands it.
As annoying as it can be, in this day and age you have to assume that an email you write could easily be snatched up and distributed a thousand different ways. Is that so surprising? The apps that run the world – and have the most users – are the ones on which peoples’ thoughts, images and locations are shared with the public, then spread like wildfire.
When Twitter first launched, people were baffled by the fact that individuals wanted to put a sentence out into cyberspace every twenty minutes that read something like “Pancakes for breakfast.” Everyone wondered why anyone would care what that person was having for breakfast, and more infuriatingly, why that person believed people cared? Turns out they did care. They cared a lot.
Apps where you were supposed to record and put forth your full, frontal self (sometimes quite literally) came to the forefront, and we all had to cope with this tricky balancing act:
Do I put my best foot forward on social media, or do I put my honest foot forward?
We all know the answer: On social media, honesty isn’t necessarily the best policy, but it’s the policy people expect and hope for. It’s the policy that garners more followers.
For the celebrity, people didn’t want to see the Vogue or Ellen you, they wanted to see the real you. That was the you that was supposed to be online.
So how can you be careful with what you write, or have a list of things not to put in writing, in an atmosphere where censorship is counterintuitive?
Even an app like Snapchat: The point is that you can write anything and in a certain amount of time it will disappear “forever,” but of course we’ve found ways to screenshot and distribute controversial snaps, that have gotten celebrities and normal citizens alike in trouble.
There’s really no delete button once you sit down, type and press post or send on any tablet, on any platform. So what words shouldn’t we put out into the universe?
For me the answer has a bit to do with karma. If you’re an internet troll, you’re sending that negative energy out into cyberspace, and will probably get it back in spades. The “treat others the way you want to be treated” mantra applies to the emails you write, the anonymous comments you put online, and the snaps you send (even if they disappear eventually).
Do you want to put out positive energy or negative energy? Be a good person or not that great of one? Whether it’s to the physical world or the internet world, it’s sort of one in the same, isn’t it?