What you post on digital media is what you become defined as. People plan and perfect what they post in order to manipulate their perception. We only post what we want people to see. However, nothing in the digital media is ever truly private so sometimes things fall between the cracks, despite the privacy settings we choose to use. So, that private Facebook photo from last Friday night you only shared with your friends might end up being seen by your employer, even though you selected certain privacy settings — and that photo was probably the complete opposite of the perception you were trying to convey to your employer on LinkedIn. Chapter one of It’s Complicated by dana boyd begins with a story explaining how our identities can be perceived differently online. A student from a bad area in Los Angeles wrote an extraordinary college essay for an Ivy League university about how he wanted to escape the gangs in his community and focus on his education. The admissions officers loved it, but decided to search him on the web in order to learn more about him. They came across his MySpace page, covered in gang symbolism and relations, and reached out to dana boyd for some answers.
They were curious as to why a student would lie about wanting to escape gangs to attend an esteemed university when his entire MySpace profile proved that he was still gang-involved. I was thinking the same thing. I thought about how dumb it was for him to post that kind of stuff when everyone knows that nothing on social media is ever private anymore. The first thing people tell you when you apply for a job or school is to not post anything provocative or stupid. It’s the basics! Then, as I read dana boyd’s reply and thoughts, my entire opinion changed and my mind was opened up to a whole new point of view. boyd replied with, “Perhaps this young man is simply including gang signals on his MySpace profile as a survival technique” (boyd, 29). I suddenly had a realization. This student was still manipulating his posts based on how he wanted to be perceived, but he was doing it to protect himself in order to avoid becoming a gang target. I have never had to use social media as a defense or survival mechanism, and wasn’t aware of those costs. This passage was eye-opening for me because I realized that what people post, even when they do it strategically, never tells their whole story. The digital media represents one side of things, and makes it difficult for us to see past it. I found this video on YouTube and I think it exemplifies how much thought people truly put into their social media posts in order to be perceived a certain way. While it is supposed to be funny and not very meaningful, it still shows how only half of the story is shown online. When you look at someone’s profile online, you don’t see how they rearranged their desk for an artistic photo or how they created their post-workout photo even when they didn’t go to the gym. The digital media represents one side of things, and makes it difficult for us to see past that side. I think this is something extremely important to remember as we continue to use the digital media personally, academically, and professionally. There is always more than meets the eye.