Is social media the new McCarthyism?

I always find it funny when someone who has never met me attempts to say they “know me.” How? There are many me’s to know.

If you follow me on Instagram, you probably know me as a gluttonous alcoholic.

If you follow me on Twitter, you probably know me as a napping, rage-filled narcissist.

If we are friends on FaceBook, you probably know me as someone’s mom.

If we are connected on LinkedIn, you probably know me as a Librarian.

If you follow me on WordPress, you probably know me as a wannabe fashionista who is obsessed with Pinterest.

If you follow me on Pinterest, you probably know me as a someone with multiple personalities.

You know me in snapshots. Small glimpses of who I really am because sometimes I am all of these and others I am not one. You know what I let you see and some of it may not even be true. And some of it is more true than I would ever admit.

Social media serves a great many purposes but the primary one is to make our world smaller, to connect us to each other in unprecedented ways. Personally, I have benefited a great deal from social media. I have made and cultivated real and lasting friendships with people I would never have met otherwise. I have connected with people locally that have become great resources. I have had more interaction with high school “friends” than I actually had in high school. While still working, I was able to connect with other professionals and share ideas. Social media makes the world and the internet more accessible. I might not know the answer but someone I am connected to will.

There of course is the flip side of social media. Taking these snapshots it is easy for us to pass judgement on what we see. “Oh, she posts photos of alcohol all the time so she must be an unreliable party girl.” Truth is I rarely drink. I go weeks without even a single glass of wine. However, if you don’t know me in real life it would be impossible for you to really KNOW that about me.

Today on twitter some guy has been calling out women as whores because of perceived flirtations. He has determined it as his personal mission to notify the husbands of these women that their wives are cheating whores. This man has taken his hurt and is channeling it into a form of McCarthyism. Are some of these women (and men for that matter) cheating? Possibly. Is it his place to play fidelity police? Hell no!

Also today, I received a snapshot of a tweet exchange between two librarians discussing whether or not they could be fired over twitter. Not only can you be fired for your use of social media, you can be refused employment due to social media. Yes they can fire you and they can bend their policy any which way they want. The law on social media in the workplace is still so new and so 50 shades of gray that it is not on your side as the employee. Employers actively seek out what you are doing online before they hire you and after. You want a job working with children? It might not be a good idea to have those photos of you topless at that last kegger before graduation. And if you think you are anonymous, think again. Someone will piece just enough information together to jack up your life. Is it the place of your employer to spy on what you are doing and saying unrelated to your job performance? I don’t believe so. It’s a snapshot. It’s not a complete chapter.

Should you be careful what you say, do, and who you let into your social media sphere? Absolutely! By no means are my comments here an excuse for you to commit criminal acts and post it all over YouTube. My assertion is that normal, acceptable behavior on social media should not be used to condem individuals until more is known or understood. Should I grant an interview to the girl who worked as a Budweiser girl? Just because I found it on FaceBook does not me she isn’t qualified for the job. Are we making assumptions based on enough facts or a sliver of information that might give us initial pause?

Having been a victim of social media on several fronts during the past year, I will say that the community I have built in cyberspace has been more supportive and loyal than some of the people who have known me in real life for many years. Some might have urged me to walk away completely but without them I might not have gotten through some of the darkest days. Now with the connections I have through my online family and friends, I am building a new dream and they are helping me make it a reality.

In the end, I urge you not to use what you read in post to indict someone. Really know them before forming an opinion or just block them and move on.

Disclosure: This post is a year in the making and stems from personal experience, observation, and informal research.

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One thought on “Is social media the new McCarthyism?

  1. Pingback: From mindfulness and care comes civility , and civility is the foundation of a well functioning society « Iain Hall's SANDPIT

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