The following blog was authored by Matthew Zachary, a sixteen year young adult survivor who is the founder and CEO of the I’m Too Young For This! Cancer Foundation. Matt will be a guest speaker at this year’s C4YW, which is being held in New Orleans, LA from February 24-26, 2012. Be sure to catch his interview with Living Beyond Breast Cancer’s CEO Jean Sachs and Young Survival Coalition‘s Deputy Chief Executive Stacy Lewis on The Stupid Cancer Show, Monday, February 6 at 8:00pm EST.
21st Century Suggestion: Do not post photos of yourself on Facebook (FB) vacationing with your family in Cabo when you are on disability leave from your job. Additionally, if you happen to be applying for a job, applying to school, applying for a financial assistance grant or any other “put yourself out there” personal pitch opportunity, please remember – it’s 2012 and not 1980.
In this day and age, if you do not automatically assume that recruiters, admissions officers, and human resource managers are going to firebomb the Web for your social media footprint, then you deserve all of the FB comments littering that photo of you planking on a beer pong table. Considering FB changes its privacy settings on an hourly basis, there is no guarantee that the video of your absinthe-induced Justin Bieber karaoke #epicfail will be publicly viewable or just limited to your specified inner circle of friends.
“But wait!” you say. “I have two email addresses. One for FB and one for business! They’ll never be able to find me. Also, my LinkedIn profile will protect me and give off the impression that I am an inherently upstanding citizen and generally nice person.”
Lest ye forget, my grasshopper snowflake, that social media has the word “social” in it. Therefore, it would be categorically unwise to assume anything nor underestimate the power of the dark side of the Interweb. After all, you never truly know who knows who and, by proxy, who knows your past. Gone are the days of Kevin Bacon separation. It’s one degree to you.
Besides, your LinkedIn profile may intentionally or unintentionally connect to your FB profile, Twitter feed, Tumblr or Blog – all footprints of your online social identity which can – and will – give prospects the Scooby Doo clues they need to discover the aforementioned “Bieber incident,” thereby potentially wiping out any chance you have of matriculation or employment.
In fact, it doesn’t have to be work or school. It could be a date, a business meeting, holidays with the family or even securing a loan. Everything you post online is global public knowledge, whether you want it to be or not. No matter how hard you may try, something will eventually give probably due to no fault of your own. Subsequently, the world won’t be your oyster, the world will see your oyster. Awkward.
Notice, I haven’t even mentioned the word “cancer” yet. What is stated above serves, I hope, as common sense practical advice to the general counsel. Toss any chronic or debilitating disease on top of these already complex cultural understandings, and you are potentially opening up a whole new can of ignorance-based stigma, social injustice and downright stupidity. The very meaning of the word “privacy” changes in an instant when you are facing a life-altering, or potentially catastrophic, medical condition that threatens to uproot your life. Economic, physical, career and spiritual issues notwithstanding, the social implications of these circumstances are what will most likely be the most stressful to deal with.
This is where the fine lines of social media, personal privacy and one’s own need for peer support will intersect. Just when you’re at a time in your life when the need for self-expression and a steam valve release is most important, you’re potentially confined in how you wish to say what you need to because your oyster may be on display. You are the star of your own reality show and the camera watching your every action is social media. Your privacy is in the eye of the beholder and only you can choose what makes the most sense for you. Should you create a custom “list” in FB just for people who you’d like to vent to? If you stop posting altogether, people will get suspicious. How can you possibly manage the emotions of wanting to hate the world, love yourself and still “like” Glee on your wall?
What’s worse? Losing FB friends or losing real friends? Do the practical uses of social media outweigh the cons? These – and scores of other similar curiosities – pervade our society and represent life in the 21st century. There is no one answer for any one person. The art of your survivorship is how you choose to get busy living. Expressing yourself through that vein is an individualized choice. Arm yourself with knowledge, surround yourself with peers and absorb as much credible insight as possible before making as objective a decision as you can when sharing your story with the entire world via one mouse click. The world is literally your oyster.