“My Keyboard Did It”—Why It’s Time to Take Your Online Identity Seriously
Written by Kendall Marie | April 14, 2015
There’s a lot of buzz in the air about the destructive power of social media. Here at PI, we think it’s an important and necessary thing to talk about, especially as we begin to tackle more sensitive topics together.
Keeping that in mind, I only recently stumbled across the video you see below, but I’ve been thinking about it ever since, and I wanted to share it.
Remarkably poignant, the video features individuals who are homeless reading Tweets written about themselves. And not just any Tweets, but Tweets written with an intent to cause pain and humiliation. Tweets written, in a very basic sense, to discourage hope.
Now, it’s fair to say that these are Tweets that have captured moments of extreme cruelty and vulnerability, so it’s very possible that a similar post won’t be cropping up in your news feed anytime soon (mine is mostly occupied by current-events blurbs and cute animal videos).
But I appreciate this compilation because it doesn’t just remind us to be mindful when we step onto a digital platform—it offers a new standard to help us err on the side of kindness, which is something that any of us, especially those with Wi-Fi and a network greater than one, can benefit from.
And that standard is this:
Before you post anything in a digital space that relates to another person or a group of people, take a moment to place yourself not only in their shoes, but also in a pair of shoes that have been placed directly next to or in front of them. Be it a peer or a stranger, picture yourself standing at their side when they discover your message—or, better yet, imagine yourself reading it out loud to them, in a very public space. If, in that moment, you‘re visited by any sensations of fear, guilt or discomfort (think: mild panic), then I think it goes without saying that those words are probably better left unsaid.
And do this anytime there is even the slightest hint of doubt, because social media can be a tricky thing. On one hand, it helps us stay connected and informed. On the other hand, it robs our comments of tone and context, and worse yet, it allows us to feel as though we’re detached from our words.
But we are not shouting into a void, and as soon as we hit “send” or “post,” our words no longer belong to us, though they are a reflection of us. They belong to a greater community, and neither hindsight nor regret will prevent them from traveling faster and further than we had intended.
So, my point is this:
Make sure the messages you’re posting are little fragments of yourself that you’d be proud of. And remember that while a screen may prompt you to be less discerning with your words, this wall between “you” and “them” is only an illusion, and it doesn’t lessen the sting. Or your duty to take responsibility for your words.