Clean your social media? Why not delete?
When it comes to clearing out social media posts, spring cleaning is a year-round opportunity. But it’s not about the rooms in your house. It’s about the device in your pocket. Presence helps to clean your social media, and cleaning has never been this easy.
When I first started writing this blog post, I intended it to be about broadly deleting social media posts. But social media is tied to so many aspects of our lives that it’s hardly ever merely “social media.” What follows is my reasoning for cleaning your social media.
During this quarantine, social media have been a great help to stay connected with each other and provide or request support in moments of need. Let’s keep the benefits going but practice thoughtful reflection on what you are doing. (Consider, for example, that you would not hand your personal diary or a photo album of you and your family to a stranger. That would be weird, right?)
What makes personal status updates and tweets different from a diary or photo album? Although they are intended to be seen, individual status updates and tweets remain unchanging across time, and they eventually become stake and out-of-date. I imagine that, like most people, you’ve grown a bit and evolved since your early social media posts. Things you would have posted ten years ago are often vastly different from the content you share now. That impels me to ask this question: Do all the posts on your timeline reflect the person you are today?
1. You’ve Changed, Your Social Presence Should Reflect That
Today, anyone can create their own content, draft a story, publish it on a website or app, or become an “influencer” on social media . These possibilities are among the amazing innovations of the modern era. Social media and socially oriented platforms have rooted themselves in the methods of human interaction and the platforms and we participants have change quickly since Facebook first appeared in 2004, for example.
The youngest users who joined Facebook in 2004, myself included, have been guilty of responding emotionally to posts and comments. Years later, those interactions still live somewhere on our timeline. I guarantee that with few exceptions, most individuals are not the same people they were in middle school. I know I’m not. So, be mindful about what you post. Detach yourself from your Facebook and social media history. It’s okay to delete things. That’s the beauty of being human. We do stuff. We learn. We grow. We change our minds.
If you were truly alone, you could scream into the void, and no one would hear you. When you post something on the internet, it can seem like you’re screaming into the void, but I can assure you that people (and AI systems) are listening. On the internet, the eyes and ears are everywhere.
So, be intentional and decisive. Clean up your timeline. Delete your old tweets with Presence!
2. Misunderstanding, Out-of-Context
It’s easy for a post to be misunderstood, especially years after its posting. Things are easily taken out of context–a screenshot here, a misinterpreted quote there. The delivery just isn’t the same anymore, and someone could take your posts the wrong way. To avoid these risks, think before you tweet that hilarious joke, and always review your posts before publishing.
Social media aficionados and thoughtful content writers such as Matthew Kobach and David Perell edit their posts extensively before pushing them live to increase the value of their advice and reduce the risk of unintended consequences.
The best writers and storytellers, such as Susanna Clarke, John M. Ford, Neil Gaiman, and J.R.R. Tolkien, write in a way that only they can create. Their writer’s voice is unique. Even without obvious clues, skilled writers like them can evoke clear understanding and paint pictures with their prose, but these talents take a lot of practice. And a lot of editing. Wise and practical advice to writers is: revise, revise, revise! These words apply to you, not just to professional authors and journalists
Elizabeth Bernstein points out in her Wall Street Journal article “How to offer Unsolicited Advice Without Being Annoying” that not all advice is created equal even if the substance of the advice is the same with different styles of delivery. Sometimes what matters is who gives the advice, but often, how it was presented matters more than the advice itself. Often, the message and the delivery are equally impactful.
In the 1960s, professor of psychology Dr. Albert Mehrabian, studied communication and its modes of effectiveness. His findings gave a quantified how messages are understood. Dr. Mehrabian and co-researchers concluded that an interpretation of a message is:
- 7% Verbal: This relates to the formulation of words.
- 38% Vocal: How we say something impacts how it is heard; things like pitch and tone say a lot.
- 55% Visual: The most impactful aspect in communicating is nonverbal. Body language and things like posture and eye contact communicate much.
Note that these numbers are valid only when a communicator is expressing their own feelings. Also, the numbers obviously do not apply to email or texting, where the cues of body language and voice tone are absent. Perhaps this is why it is easy to misunderstand a communicator’s meaning or intention in the text that is not checked and revised.
In practice, what we post on social media also is uniquely equipped to be misunderstood. The most significant factors for fully understanding a message are filtered out. Dr. Mehrabian’s study is now about 60 years old and often misquoted. As I understand it, the model above indicates that by design, on a very basic level, your status updates or tweets could be more difficult to understand without certain visual and auditory cues.
This is not just applicable to social media. Consider the transcripts created by courtroom recorders. Was something said sarcastically? Was there some muttering under the breath that the writer was unable to document? Was the interviewee sweating or avoiding eye contact, or were they poised and confident? (Jurors in a jury trial can and do interpret the cues that the court recorder misses.) In the world of social media, the internet is home to your judges and jurors. To present your case as clearly as you can, remember to take enough time to judge your own content and intention then . . . revise!
3. Privacy Concerns
Privacy is one of the biggest issues to consider when deciding which old social media posts to clean up. Your post stays on display on social media, and cleaning up social media applies to all users. Some users are conservative with the information they post, but many other users do not consider long-term consequences and have much more cleanup to do. Regardless, when privacy is at stake, our position at Presence is that whatever work is necessary to protect privacy is worthwhile.
We recently joined forces with the National Cyber Security Alliance to promote the STOP. THINK. CONNECT. Campaign. If you want to post-holiday photos on Facebook when you’re out of town, DON’T. Doing so can be an invitation for someone to burglarize your home while you are away. Wait until you return from your trip to share pictures. Check out other tips here.
Subscribe to our blog and join the movement. #PrivacyFirst
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