Ever had an awkward encounter online? Here’s three to make you cringe, and count your lucky blessings that these aren’t you.
When you add your grandparents, your conservative neighbours, your radical university friends or your vague acquaintances on Facebook, the embarrassing moments which may bite you in the butt never occur to you. But when I reached out to students for this article, I finally understood what my media lecturers meant by ‘context collapse’—where social media flattens multiple audiences into one environment.
The online world is a tricky one to navigate, so take comfort in these stories of awkward solidarity, and keep their lessons in mind, so that you never have to stand in front of your boss trying to explain why you unprofessionally commented ‘HAHAHA THIS IS SO FUNNY WHAT A LEGEND’ on that Facebook post about the guy who headbutted Tony Abbott.
Are Kermit memes cross-generational?
It’s only fair to go first when telling embarrassing stories. Late last year, my good friend Olivia* and her boyfriend Craig* broke up. Despite the amicable breakup, and the friendship that ensued, neither Olivia or Craig spared a thought for Craig’s Mum! She also been deeply invested in their relationship, and the way I see it, she was just waiting for the chance to have her two cents worth.
Sometimes when you go on an incessant tagging spree, you forget who’s watching. (It’s Facebook—they’re always watching). It doesn’t even occur to you who can see what on Facebook. It didn’t occur to me.
I learned a great lesson from this traumatic experience: mums on Facebook (especially ones you don’t know) take great offence on behalf of their sons, and will roast you with no hesitation.
It’s 2010 and you don’t yet know the most important rule of social media
When she was fifteen, Isabella* logged into tumblr on her mum’s laptop and forgot to log out. Her mother had the unfortunate experience of viewing Isabella’s collection of soft porn. Another time, she forgot to log out of Facebook, and her conversations with her very secret girlfriend became not so secret. You wish you could blame Facebook, tumblr, your mum, anyone for having to suffer that embarrassment! But there is nobody else to blame but yourself. The cardinal rule: log out of social media on other people’s devices!
Please Grandma, no!
On Sarah’s 18th birthday, she introduced her first boyfriend to her Nan. It was a wholesome night filled with equally-wholesome pictures, and we know how much old people adore pictures. Two weeks later, Sarah’s mum dutifully sent the photos to Nan, who promptly uploaded a photo of the young couple to Instagram. Sarah’s grandma even knew how to tag! But what Nan didn’t know was that Sarah had broken up with the poor guy the day before. He politely commented, “Thanks Annette, have a wonderful day. We aren’t dating anymore sorry.” As awkward as this was for Sarah, I personally think her ex-boyfriend unnecessarily added fuel to the fire. Who would embarrass a well-intentioned Nan like that!
*Names have been changed.