My first article for Winthrop’s The Johnsonian student newspaper is live, and by “live,” I mean in a physical newspaper that needs to be picked up by using hand muscles. Their website seems to be in perpetual redesign and reabandonment, so I’ll post what I’ve written here, for now. The articles, the second of which is in the mail, are little ditties about school or whatever I feel like. A word count for print means I can’t devolve into an emotional soliloquy comparing my past relationships to attempted Atari revitalizations, but what’re you gonna do. Sometimes all “adult” really means is wearing an adult’s clothes.
I try to work with social media’s lax privacy standards. While any new Facebook Terms of Service update has my friends ranting, on Facebook, about an invasion of their private life, I bask in the knowledge that my words are for public consumption. The Johnsonian’s first issue of the year contained an article called “Students beware of social media monster attacks” that begged college students to be aware of what they post to their favorite websites. Being aware of the internet’s permanency is important, but there’s something great about catching a 3 a.m. drunken tweet clarifying which minority should be deported.
Social media sites generally leave their on the default “public” setting, meaning a new profile will be searchable. Openbook was a search engine specifically created for public Facebook updates. It shut down in July 2012. While that independently-created parody may have been destroyed for legal reasons, apparently that legality doesn’t apply to Microsoft’s proposed Google-killer, Bing. Bing.com/Social will let you search both Facebook and Twitter for the most embarrassing things imaginable. If you want something gross, try “weird rash.” Want to know why your boss confronted you? Try “hate + boss.” Listen, if you just need a good cry over humanity, try “my DUI.” At least thousands of people have said them, and thousands more haven’t changed their settings one bit.
Online bullying and stalking are serious offenses that deserve every bit of scorn, so let’s be clear that individual sites do have standards of honesty to uphold. Every single website should make it abundantly clear that the internet is a public place. Why would you ever think Facebook is private if the borders of your screen are showing personalized advertisements? The internet is a market. It’s as open as Markley’s at the Center or the Dacus Library. No matter how much you try to hide in a corner and make an adorable little fort out of textbooks, people are going to hear your screaming homophobic epithets. I recently listened to a podcast wherein an editor had his 1996 Usenet post read back to him. Sure, Facebook should let you know their intentions up front, if only to educate. But even if they don’t, are they to blame for their users’ lack of common sense?
Taking screenshots of stupid social media updates and coalescing them into an article or blog has become a very recent source of entertainment. “Who is Bon Iver?’ catalogues the fans who were enraged that a band that hadn’t previously had marketed towards them won a Best New Artist Grammy award. “Literally Unbelievable” collects everyone who took an article from satirical newspaper The Onion seriously, and many blogs exist for the most nonsensical Amazon and Netflix user reviews. And any time a tragedy strikes, you’ll find some assembly of smiling faces and hashtags regurgitating the rudest words imaginable.
Individual cases may vary, and certainly Facebook’s default settings may harm those wishing to retain sensitive information from the start (let’s try to change that). But one of the primary groups affected seems to be the one unaware of basic decency, not just internet etiquette. My advice? Check to see if the person you’re about to sleep with ever said anything regarding Pearl Harbor during last year’s Japanese earthquake. It won’t reflect his entire personhood, but it sure gives a quick reflection.