Everyone learns the Golden Rule at some point in their childhood. You know it – treat others the way you’d want to be treated. Or, simply put, treat people with consideration. It’s one of those basic human values that is shared by Christians, Buddhists, Muslims and Humanists. The Golden Rule is one of ethics and humanity, more than anything else. We need to choose, every day, to be decent to one another. And, surprisingly, it’s not always so easy to do. Being human is just hard. These days, with business and information moving at the speed of sound, and everyone trying to keep up with the Joneses or bubble up or be remarkable or be a ‘thought leader’ humanity takes even more of a back seat. Most of the time, that’s really not the intent. Social Media can be a channel for self promotion. And when we’re too self-focused we lose site of each other and, by extension, we lose sight of that Golden Rule.
Over the holiday my house was bustling with family and festivities. My sister (who has no idea I’m using her for this post and hopefully she won’t care) stayed with us to celebrate Christmas. We were busy – a big family gathering on Christmas Eve. Friends in town and staying over with us for Christmas morning. My three-year-old was enjoying the first Christmas where he really embraced the magic of Santa Claus. The last thing I was thinking about was what sorts of images of me might end up on the Internet. I was wrapping up work, and cleaning my house, and preparing hor d’oeuvres and doing last minute shopping and, you name it – it was on my list. By the time Christmas morning rolled around I was breathing a sigh of relief at the prospect of a nap. Now, I don’t know about you, but I do not sleep in what one would refer to as high fashion. In fact, I’ll admit it, my night-time wardrobe has been sorely neglected over the years and most every morning, when I come plodding out of my bedroom sporting a brilliant case of bedhead and some misguided combination of sweatpants and a t-shirt, I look positively homeless. Christmas morning was no exception. I played spectator to my son and the Christmas motherlode. I completely missed the fact that I was a passive participant in a series of photographs capturing his excitement. There I was looking like a bloated, homeless whale – laying on the couch or curled up on the floor or all contorted for some crazy task with ‘some assembly required’. My sister, whom I adore, was capturing every precious moment of my baby’s magical morning. Unfortunately, my butt was the backdrop for a good number of those moments and I had no idea. No idea, that is, until my butt showed up on Facebook.
Facebook, the basement-home-movies-and-instantaneous-scrapbook all rolled into one. Instead of inviting your friends over to bore them with your latest adventure as you project your vacation slides on your paneled rec-room wall, just share your family fun on Facebook and they can comment and ‘Like’ your life from anywhere, right this instant, and forever. Somewhere between brunch and my long winter’s nap on Christmas Day I logged into Facebook to kill some time and was immediately notified that my sister had posted some pictures. My heart raced as I quickly reviewed her recently uploaded collection. Granted, I wasn’t the focal point of any of those photos. But, it could not be denied, that there I was, looking about as comfortable and unkempt as a person ever should, right smack dap in the middle of my sister’s ‘wall’. I thought very seriously about the correct response to this issue. On the one hand, they were not my pictures and my sister can take and post whatever she wants on her Facebook page. But on the other hand, about 25 of her friends are my ‘friends’ and I wasn’t entirely comfortable with anyone, save my immediate family, seeing me in such a state. It’s an interesting dilemma when you think about it. Social Media only works when the intent and the content is authentic. One could argue that my desire to remove pictures of myself looking terrifying is not exactly authentic. But I also need to feel safe in my own house. I need to know I can roam around in my underwear and not have to worry about it showing up on the world wide web by nightfall. Who is deciding how these things work? We are. And, quite honestly, there’s nothing all that digital or ‘new’ about it. When thinking about how best to be ‘social’ in the Social Media sphere, remember the Golden Rule. Treat others the way you would like to be treated. Show them some consideration.
Now, I’m not suggesting my sis had any ill intentions in posting those photos. I think she simply wanted to share the images of her sweet nephew’s holiday excitement. But without my consent, or prior review, she was sharing much more than that. You see the moral dilemma? What right did I have to ask her to edit what she wanted to share with her network? The problem was, once the content was tagged, it was shareable outside of her network. And I have no idea what her privacy settings look like. Bottom line – I was not comfortable with it. It wasn’t about oversharing – it was about my level of comfort with what was being shared. The Geek Girls have said time and time again, behind every picture is the human that took it and posted it. If you don’t like the picture talk to the human. I mean, come on. In this new era of immediacy in communication – we have to all commit to being reasonable when publishing content to what is really a GLOBAL network. But I say we should go a step further and, as creators of content, we need to apply the Golden Rule. We need to be sensitive to and considerate of others first. Ask before you post if there is anything that could be even slightly compromising. I don’t think that asking for a little kindness is really asking for all that much. In fact, that is exactly what I asked of my sister — I asked her to be kind to me in re-reviewing those pictures. In the end, she was more than kind and for that I am grateful.
Go ahead – post your pictures, share your videos – put it all out there. But before you hit ‘submit’ – remember the moral of this story – remember the Golden Rule. Be kind to each other.