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Mark Goulston, M.D. Headshot

Twitter at Your Own Risk

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Maybe what goes in Vegas, stays in Vegas, But what goes on the Internet, goes everywhere and stays there forever.

Since disconnectedness causes more problems than connectedness, the good probably does outweigh the bad when it comes to social networking via Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, MySpace and beyond.

But beware (and you especially may want to tell this to your children), whatever you put up on the Internet becomes viewable to anyone, anytime, anywhere. The more immature - and exhibitionistic - your personality, the more likely you will put anything you choose, up anywhere you please. When questioned, you will reply: "Oh everyone is doing it" or (if you're really immature) "If it feels good and it's not hurting anyone else, what's wrong?"

Guess what? It's hurting you.

Why? Because anyone who may decide to accept you into their school, college or community and anyone considering hiring you, will increasingly look you up on the web wherever you are. And among the things they will be looking for are common sense and judgment. Anyone who puts up information that screams, "Look at me!" may not be someone schools, colleges and jobs believe will be able to put that aside to focus on what is important to them.

A close friend of mine used to interview just out of law school applicants for her law firm. Her favorite question: "Tell me about yourself?"

What was she looking for? Not your hobbies, friendships or family stories (if she wanted to find out about those, she'd ask specifically about them). She was looking to see if you had the judgment to realize that you're being hired to help a law firm be more successful, and looking for answers that would set you up to succeed rather than fail.

The most damaging and insidious cost of "twittering" away your life is that joining one of those sites and attracting hundreds, if not thousands of followers or contacts (BTW I am not one to speak, since I have a profile up at Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin) can give you figuratively and literally a "contact" high. And that can become addictive.

What's wrong about that? Having all that buzz about you or connected to you can make you feel like a "somebody." The problem is that in most of our jobs and even intimate relationship we can easily begin to feel less special, more like an "anybody" than a "somebody." And as several people I know have confided, "When you go from feeling like a 'somebody' to feeling like an 'anybody,' you feel like a 'nobody'." At that point you can become distracted, irritable and thinking only of your next "Blackberry fix." If the coin of the realm in life is giving our undivided (non-multitasked) attention to the people we care about at work and at home, our addiction to Twitter et al is rapidly bankrupting the quality in our relationships.

I've heard something attributed to Marilyn Monroe was that when everyone adores you, but nobody knows you, you can die of loneliness. The same might be said that when you're connected to everybody, you're connected to nobody.

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