"When people show you who they are, believe them."
~ Maya Angelou
This past weekend, I gave a talk to approximately 800 young girls, between third and eighth grade. It was at the We Are Girls Conference, and the theme of the conference was "Tell Your Story" -- my job, as opening keynote, was to talk about how photography can be a great way to tell your story.
More or less.
The surreptitious subtext of my talk (because I am apparently my father's child, and therefore I can't resist a lecture) was about being responsible for what you put on the internet. I shared the Maya Angelou quote, above. I mentioned to the young women that they're lucky: they're growing up in an age where they have way more power than I did when I was coming up. Back then, "media" was something that giant television and movie and journalism corporations made; nowadays, we all have the power to create media. In fact, I said to them, each of us is the CEO of our own media empire. And therefore, we should make sure that the digital legacy we're leaving -- the story we're telling -- is an accurate one, and the one that we fully control. I told them that they don't want to just be the lead actor in the film of their own lives -- they also want to be the writer, director and producer.
And then I threw in a few photo tips to help make their Instagram images a bit better.
In any event, I really tried to drive home how much power each of them has: to create their own stories, and to affect how other people view them, sure, but also how the viewers can view themselves. What we put on the internet has ripple effects -- it creates dialogue, and we can influence the directions the narrative takes. We are all really quite powerful.
I think this is something that we all forget from time to time.
A friend of mine, Casey, put this up on their Facebook page yesterday:
This is what Facebook looks like right now:
Charlie Sheen is a horrific human being.
Why you shouldn't make the French flag your profile picture.
Why you shouldn't say so much about Paris because other! people! are! dying! too!
It's everyone's birthday! Happy birthday everyone!
Don't be assholes about refugees, you guys.
Kids are getting taller!
AIDS and HIV aren't the same thing. Why don't we know this yet?
Look at what I wrote!
I couldn't help but laugh, because it reminded me of something else I'd read earlier this week: we're just about halfway through #naphopomo, and my friend Jeanine (whose images and words are some of my favourites on the internet) sent an email to my friends Xanthe, Andrea and me saying how much she's been enjoying the process of creating and putting something up on her blog every single day. It was a nice break from other forms of social media, she said, because creating blog posts is so mindful, as opposed to the way more conventional "social media is the fast food of the internet world."
The fast food of the internet world. I can't tell you how much that phrase rings true for me: so much of social media is ubiquitous, bad for you, and yet it's just so convenient to consume. Just as Casey was pointing out.
I'm pretty good about being mindful of what I share online, but I feel like Casey's and Jeanine's words, coupled with the points I tried to make with those kids this past weekend are serving as a good kick in the butt to renew my efforts to be thoughtful with what I post.
After all: we're all CEOs of our own social media empires.
Soundtrack: Diamonds by Johnnyswim
Only 9 days left to register for my new ecourse Advent of Light! If devoting a few minutes of peace to yourself every day during the first 24 days of December seems like a lovely thought, then this is for you: it's sort of an audio/visual "advent calendar" with audio meditations, downloadable images, and a daily date with your journal. Join me.