You can write the end of the story yourselves: A student walks out of their first job interview. They were able to answer all of the interviewer’s questions without stammering and know they made a great impression. They are the perfect fit for the position and the job is theirs, they are sure of it. Until the interviewer types their name into the Google search bar.
The internet is a blessing for this current generation; one can find everything about anything in less than a second with the click of a button or the touch of a screen. The same holds true for social media as a platform for our teenagers; the world is at their fingertips, both literally and figuratively. With pictures and videos available 24/7, we forget that the internet is a publishing platform, rivaling the likes of Scholastic and Random House. And similar to Las Vegas, what happens on the internet WILL stay on the internet, forever and always.
Who are our posting teenagers and what are they posting? They can be categorized as follows:
1. The Passionate Poster: One who comments about topics in the news, politics, community affairs, religion, etc. They want their opinions known and their voice heard.
2. The Activity Poster: One who posts pictures of their morning attire or Saturday night outings. The more likes or comments they get, the more seen they feel.
3. The Emotional Poster: One who posts a famous quote or an often cryptic musing about life. The post inevitably generates lots of attention and follow up texts like Everything Ok? How could they break up with you!
4. The Hurtful Poster: One who might post things making fun of others or sending hurtful information through text messages.
These categories are not exhaustive and I’m sure we can all come up with a few more. The bottom line is: You can and will be evaluated by what you post online. Do you want everyone in your life knowing about everything in your life? Your school principal? Your grandmother? Information that is or should be private is now in the public sphere and cannot be forgotten.
As educators and parents, we need to encourage our teenagers to Pause Before Posting. Take an extra couple of seconds or minutes to think about the image you are presenting or the message you are transmitting. Is my post necessary? Do I need to share this information or my thoughts with all 562 of my closest friends and Instagram confidants? Can I text this privately to those closest to me, or even better: Can I have a face to face conversation with others about my thoughts and my feelings?
The urge to post something can often be fueled by intense emotion. Take a pause and allow the emotions to calm and settle. Once you have had a chance to think it through, your post will be planned and (hopefully) infused with tactful thought.
“With great power comes great responsibility.” It behooves us to educate our often impulsive teenagers to Pause Before They Post. This way when their name is inevitably searched right after their first job interview, may the most exciting thing uncovered be that they grew up as a teenager in Bergen County.
Dr. Karen Lopata is the director of guidance at The Frisch School.