What My Mother In 4th Grade Taught Me About Social Media Privacy

By Brian Murray I've spoken at dozens of colleges and to hundreds of students in my two years at Likeable. I've spoken on a wide variety of topics, from "What Does It Mean To Be Likeable" to "How to Land a Job with Social Media." But in every presentation, I talk about my mother. My mother doesn't even truly understand what we do at Likeable, but that hasn't stopped her from influencing my work. She taught me a lesson in 4th grade that I think about every time I communicate using social media.

My Story

For those that know me, you know that I love to talk. I'm happiest when I'm engaged in conversation and learning from others. In high school I won the superlative "Most Talkative." And this description could apply to my entire childhood.  I was never a trouble maker in the traditional sense, but I wasn't the best student growing up as I was more interested in what was going on around me than what the teacher was saying. I regularly received comments on report cards like "Lacks Self Control" for my inability to shut up.

In 4th grade my mother was in regular contact with my teacher, Mrs. Kossover, due to my incessant talking. They tried punishing me, they moved my seat in the classroom, they sent me to the principal. Nothing worked. On one particularly "bad day," Mrs. Kossover called my house and spoke to my mother. The dinner table that evening wasn't much fun. But my mother said something that has stuck with me for the past 20 years. She said, "Brian, if I was in the back of the classroom, would you continue to talk?" I answered no. She responded with, "Well then pretend I am in the back of the classroom, watching over everything you do."

How does this apply to the use of social media?

I tell young professionals all the time that when they are using Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, or whatever platform they prefer it is NOT private. By definition, it cannot be private when shared with 1,000 friends or strangers. No matter how "private" your account is, you are a screenshot and an email away from it being seen my millions of people. So the next time you are about to hit post, share, or send consider this: Is this something you would want your mother to see? If it makes it easier, you can simply replace the word mother with employer, future fiance, potential billion dollar business partner, or news reporter.

Thanks mom for teaching me this valuable lesson before social media even existed.

Who has impacted your use of social media? What lessons have you learned from your elders?