Anyone who spent their formative years in a post-MySpace world has received countless warnings to be mindful of what they post on social media. With graduation season upon us, the Class of 2017 is no doubt turning en masse to their social media accounts to scrub them of any evidence of impropriety. It is a trend as old as social media and a rite of passage for any job-seeking grad. As it turns out, it isn’t just Millennials who need to be given that social media talk.
ConnectSafely.org provides tips to teens for socializing on the Internet. I think a few of their tips for “safe social networking” can also apply to our electeds. They include:
1) Be your own person
2) Be nice online
3) Think about what you post
American historian Joseph J. Ellis believes Thomas Jefferson and John Adams were mentally bcc’ing posterity on the famed letters they wrote to each other during the final years of their lives. This first generation of tweeting politicians is unwittingly filling their own archives each time they post. They are the first lawmakers to have their public statements catalogued and easily accessible on the Internet for years to come, no microfilm or bulky library search engine needed.
Social media humanizes elected officials and hopefuls by forcing them to adopt the less formal lexicon of platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Unfortunately, some confuse informal with impulsive, which can result in “gotcha” moments down the road. It requires little digging to pull up an old tweet, so every post should be crafted with careful consideration and prescience. Trite as it may be, the Internet truly is forever- just ask any Millennial.