Not so social are we? (Part 1)

This is a guest post by Chioma Chuka.

[box type=”info”]Chioma is a graduate of Mass Communication from Ebonyi State University, in Nigeria and Social Media from Birmingham City University, in England. A social media consultant, Chioma is intrigued by social media and how it affects/influences governance as well as its relationship with concepts of social capital, open data, and intelligent/big societies. A poet and contributor to various media (tweeting from @chiomachuka) Chioma is the Fairy GodSister on the blog and does professional work at[/box]

Sometime last year, my mom called to tell me I’d lost my uncle; was a terrible time for me especially since I’d seen him only a week before.  May his soul rest in peace, amen.

A friend of mine lost her dad around the same time; somehow her cousins found out before her and because she was the closest to him and the most emotional, everyone was scared of telling her. One of her ‘brilliant’ cousins wrote this on her Facebook wall; “hey coz!! Sorry about the death of your dad, he was my favourite uncle.”

This was the first thing that popped into my head when @SOluwatobi got in touch about highlighting some of the errors we make in our use of social media/platforms. Whether professionally, security related, or just because we are human beings with a modicum of common sense, ladies and gentlemen, some things are not just acceptable! I’ll focus on personal uses in this first post, and then we’ll deal with business uses in the second part. Also, I’ll focus only on Facebook and Twitter for both parts.

So you’ve signed up, gotten yourself a Facebook or Twitter account in 2012. To start with, where have you been? Lol. Secondly, I hope that by reading this piece you can avoid some mistakes older users have made.

A little definition: Facebook and Twitter are some of the channels/enablers/tools under the broader term, ‘social media’. Social media in itself is simply communication enabled by technology. So it is talking to your friend in the market/school/church/mosque, only online rather than in person, via a letter or over the phone. It is also making new friends that way too, instead of writing and asking to be pen pals.

It is important to remember this simple analogy in our everyday use of these networks because it will help us not to alienate people in the name of being ‘social’. Especially when we’re not sending private messages. For example, Social Mediawould you write on a notice board at your university that you had the best sex ever with xyz? Even if the board asked you what was on your mind? Or would you say you’d just received payment for a job done running into millions of naira and you were on the way to cash the cheque? And for good measure, write where you were at the time?  If you said (or thought) yes to any of the questions, you can stop reading now. But if you thought it absurd, why do we post such things online? In these days of heightened crime and insecurity, why do we put ourselves out there like this?

Back to the story I shared earlier, would you inform your cousin of a death in the family by pasting the information on the notice board in your community centre? So why do we do these things and appear really insensitive? Social networks are not much different from real life! Really!

While I agree that we are all different, have different levels of openness et al, I think we should apply some self-censorship to our interactions on social networks. That’s it.

Personally, I always assume anyone can read the things I put online. ‘Anyone’ could range from my folks, peers, a present/potential employer, to thieves, perverts, or even law enforcement agents. Therefore, while I have a lot of fun with the accounts I own, I’m careful too.

You might say, ‘but it’s my account, why will people care what I put out? Think of it like this; a post functions like you’re talking to 50 Social Mediafriends in a room, only that everything you’re saying that they can hear, all their friends can hear as well. And the friends of your friend’s friends can hear too. Does that make you want to be a tad more thoughtful?

There have been countless cases of people losing jobs, getting in trouble with the law, or even getting harmed because they put out too much information about themselves and their activities. These things should be examples we learn from; pitfalls to avoid.

Same thing goes for the pictures we put up. Dear friends, the world has shrunk considerably thanks to the internet. With the tentacles of social media sinking into our daily activities, it’s shrunk even more! That picture of you in a compromising position that attracts a few measly followers on Twitter today will surface tomorrow when a potential employer searches for you on Google. #EnoughSaid

General rule of thumb? Let’s take a few seconds to think of the immediate and future effects of the things we post online; if the cons outweigh the pros, consider sending a private message to the person(s) directly involved or shelve the ideal altogether.

Follow  Chioma Chuka on twitter @ChiomaChuka

Technopreneur. Chief Hustler at 1Plify. PhD scholar [Technology entrepreneurship]

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