We've all been there at one point or another, whether it be a cringeworthy mandatory meeting at school or a sit down discussion with your parents in the family room. Maybe you watch a fraudulent PSA and have to analyze, discuss and come to a final consensus for what you learned, which is that you must think before you post and protect your brand online. We've all heard this idea over and over, but there was one widespread conversation we missed in the auditorium in seventh grade, because it didn’t happen. What's protocol when it comes to sharing photos or information about others?

There was a short, blissful window of time when baby boomers weren't on social media, and it was just us pros rampaging the interwebs with our expertise. But more recently, our elders have caught on, and social media has become a commonwealth between the generations. As our parents and grandparents come into their own on social media, they do things that befuddle us. It may be snapping accidental photos of their feet they took on the walk from Target to their car, or posting a photo of a Minion that says, "Share with 13 friends if you love cheese!"

But sometimes, their silly faux pas is a little bigger than that, and they share things about us that we didn't grant them permission to, or things that we downright don't want being seen by all 400 of their friends. It's an assumption to many that sharing things about others without permission is acceptable internet behavior, because it seems innocent. Your mom may absolutely love the photo of you and your cousin by the pool and wanted your aunt, who couldn’t make it to the birthday barbecue, to see it. But regardless of the context, it’s your right as a human being to decide what pieces of your life and identity are shared, and your mom, dad or whoever, should respect this, just as they should expect the same treatment from you.

Although older generations are typically more amateur on social media than younger people, it doesn’t mean we as millennials aren’t guilty of posting without permission either. We’ve all been victim to the tagged photo that isn’t very flattering that we wish would disappear. We’re infuriated for a minute, but we let it go, citing our sensitivity as invalid. But is it really invalid?

Social media has caused an obsession with sharing every moment of our lives and showcasing how great we’re doing. I get that it’s fun and exciting to share the experiences we have with others, and you have the right to share as much of your life as you please with the world. But, just because you feel this way, it doesn’t mean everyone else does.

Lately, I’ve gotten a chance to take a step back and do a little bit of self reflecting on my internet habits. Have I been guilty of sharing a photo that showed someone else’s face and not bothering to ask? My social media pages are full of photos with friends and adventures with family, did I ask each and every time before I posted the photo, or did I just gleefully post send because my at-risk chin wasn’t present, for once? I began to realize that I am part of the problem I despise.

We think that because we’ve never known another world without internet, we are more digitally literate, but there is always something to learn. Personally, I don’t mind when my friends tag me in a photo on Instagram, or when my mom shares an exciting milestone I’ve made with her Facebook friends. But, I can respect how others choose to exist on the internet, and I am now vowing to myself to be more acknowledging of this. If there’s anything I want you to take away from this article, it’s to be mindful of what you share about yourself, of course, but to also take a step back and have an awareness of how you’re affecting or involving other people and their digital footprint. 

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