(This is really a letter to my daughters...)
Grace sometimes asks for a Facebook page. Not to keep in touch with other kids or family, she has Instagram for that, but for keeping track of the weather and following her favorite weather outlets and meteorologists and I have said no. I have always said no but I have not quite been able to articulate why. After all she does have Instagram, which for us has been a hugely positive experience, and she does have Twitter, although she is not allowed to post to Twitter, only follow. The once or twice that she has posted it was to report weather conditions in our town.
Facebook is a different story though. Unlike Instagram or Twitter, Facebook hits you hard with advertisements and shows you the things that other people like. It causes you to react to a visual image or to an advertisement quickly, impulsively, and sometimes naively. Recently someone I know posted a comment and a link to a newspaper picture that I wish I did not see. I have been trying to avoid everything with IS because the visual imagery and the horror and terror upset me too much. I can’t have that in my mind and eating away at my heart. So I shut it out. Sometimes I can’t, like at the drug store, I saw an image on a NY newspaper and it brought tears to my eyes and now I can’t undo what I saw. Nor can I undo the words I read and the image I saw on Facebook.
Not only is there no control over reading and being exposed to images your friends post, and the advertisements that pop up, your finger is quick to hit the “like” button. I see this on my Facebook page all the time. The “likes” by the younger people I follow, teens and young adults, make me pause and wish I could reach out on their behalf and hit erase, unwind, redo. Once you “like” something, once you repost something, once you create a post, it is part of your digital footprint forever. Forever. You cannot erase it. You cannot rewind. You cannot undo. Deleting is not a delete. It remains permanently on Facebook’s or Instagram’s or Twitter’s server. Anyone who is skilled at accessing information will be able to read your complete digital footprint. It may not matter now, at 16, 17 or 18 but it sure as heck may matter at 22, 23, 24 when you are seeking employment and your footprint is searched.
What seemed like a harmless “like” may lead someone to think you are a recreational drug user. What seemed like a harmless “like” may lead someone to think you are a political extremist. What seemed like a harmless “like” is an indication to who you are and what you value at that time in your life.
My digital footprint on FB will certainly not get me hired as a teacher. I have posted too many articles and commented on too many posts questioning the currently trends and philosophies of education. I have openly supported homeschooling and alternative schooling. Even if I am the most qualified applicant, my footprint may keep me from a job as an educator for a public school system. I know that. I accept that. However, someone at 15, 16, 17 may not realize how posting now will affect them 5 and 10 years from now.
I want my girls to think of Facebook as a mirror. What we post and what we comment are reflections of who we are. It is a snapshot of both our personality and our personal values. What we show to the FB community is no different that what we show to people in person however, people may forget our names, they may forget what we look like, they may forget a conversation we had, they may forget an illness or a tragedy we have experienced, they may forget where we went to dinner, or what the last movie we saw was. They may forget the time we partied to hard on spring break or when when a nasty comment slipped out of our mouth. They may forget when we hurt someone’s feelings, used poor grammar, or even when we blatantly told a lie. They may forget when we said a disparaging comment about our children, or had a spat with a family member. But FB never will. What we put out is part of our permanent composition. We build it with every post, with every “like”, with every share, with every comment.
So this is why we do not have FB and this is why I do not foresee FB as an option for my girls for a very long time. But rock on Twitter and Instagram. We love you!