New school, high school dance, first date, college, job interview. You were nervous, and your mother would say, “Just be yourself. You’ll be great!”
(Picture her smoothing down a stray hair or straightening your tie).
She was not talking about the you who left dirty clothes on the floor, broke curfew, got a bad grade, moaned about chores, talked back, or generally got up to no good. She was talking about your very best self: the one that exemplified the attributes she most admired in her own offspring, not to mention the home training she worked so hard to instill.
I think the exhortation–along with its implicit directives–holds lessons for life in digital age.
1 – Count to ten. Before you post that screed about whatever is ticking your off to your Facebook timeline or shoot off an email tirade, take a breather to consider the consequences. I once advised an employee who was prone to vent electronically to write the angry email, save it as a draft, and then go back later to see if he still felt he should send it.
2 – Do unto others. I see this from time to time on Twitter: 140 snarky and harsh characters from one Tweep and a response in kind from another. First Tweep takes umbrage. Second Tweep RTs the offending Tweets to the world. The Golden Rule is especially golden in the 21st Century.
3 – Keep in clean. Do not use naughty words. Think about your reputation before you share photos that show you in a scandalous light. Remember: your best efforts to control privacy settings aside, content you share might be seen by people you never imagined.
4 – Share and share alike. Get beyond using social media for New Age navel gazing. Sure, some of your friends might want to know you just had the best sandwich ever. They might like it even better if you share interesting articles and information that relates to their lives. I get a warm fuzzy feeling when a friend shares a memory like an awesomely bad eighties music video that we once loved or a photo from high school. Even those happy birthday Facebook (HBD, for those who don’t have time to type out the words) posts are appreciated!
5 – If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen. In case you hadn’t noticed, social media has evolved way past a fun, consequence-free way to play around on your computer. From time to time, conversations get heated. Things are said that cannot be unsaid. On a very basic level, some people find they simply don’t like the exposure that an active social media life comes with. Or, perhaps, there are platforms you simply don’t find useful or interesting. No one is forcing you to join the club.
And how about these? They are extensions of the five rules above and worth thinking about:
Don’t run with a bad crowd.
Set a good example for others.
Do your homework.
Try it: It might actually taste good.
Some things are private.
We all make mistakes.
You mother wanted you to be happy, loved, and–to quote Oprah–live your best life. She told you life is not fair, you can’t always have your own way, and challenges and disappointments will come. Remember: She was right.