Is Facebook a virtual tattoo?

Youths and social networking

Youths and social networking

Mid-lurgy (the noro-virus isn’t fun and takes a long time to go) over the weekend, I caught one of the BBC2 Virtual Revolution programmes. It was quite interesting, although far too Americo-centric for me – I was surprised to find it was a money programme production at the end as it felt like a US show which’d had a couple of UK clips dropped into it…

Will the mistakes of youth haunt us later?

While not the core content of the programme, the small section that resonated most with me most was a small thought from presenter Dr. Aleks Krotoski. She made a worrying comment about the permanency of social networking content and its longevity.

To me it conjured up the image of a responsible parent trying to discuss behaviour with a potentially wayward teen, who after a quick google search found evidence of their own adolescent boasts about how they “drank till they puked, shagged everything and everything, and got off their face on some tablet or other”…

In the past this was perhaps the prerogative of the wealthy and media covered (I’m thinking about ageing rockers who sang “I hope I die before I get old”). Yet now with the mass casting media it’s surely something that many will face.

Is social networking a virtual tattoo?

It may be that these hardcoded memories are a leveller, something that reminds us of who we are, what we were and where we came from, but I’m not convinced that’s always good.

At its extreme you have the unfortunates who’ve had pictures taken of them knickerless, drunk in the street, which have then become worldwide viral successes (never mind Big Brother contestants and bottles); yet far more widespread is the entire wealth of chat and information many people voluntarily place on social networking sites.

Does that make social networking the modern tattoo? Here I’m partly thinking about the MSE forum, but am especially focused on Facebook type sites where you post without anonymity. Giving yourself an image in a way that seems good when you’re younger, can be a dangerous decision that can be more significant than you realise on the long run.

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