It is hardly a debatable fact that Twitter is a major force in society. It has brought many average people fame while simultaneously bringing many famous people to their knees. From scandal to bad comedy, song lyrics to mundane complaints, our tweets can be viewed as nothing less than a reflection of ourselves.

Due to the nature of how we’ve integrated Twitter (and social media as a broader concept) into our everyday lives, we’re now forced to take what is said on Twitter just as seriously as what is said face-to-face. This creates an interesting quandary based around the question “How should we conduct ourselves on Twitter?”

While our tweets might be meant exclusively for followers (assumedly comprised of friends and acquaintances), and we may be more open to liberalizing the content for this reason, we can never assume that a curious human resources employee isn’t sifting through tweets for a reason to deny an internship or job.

One of the primary concerns with Twitter, and why it may be necessary to restrict yourself, is the ability to accurately convey intentions. After all, 140 characters is quite restrictive in terms of word count and could leave some viewers with an incomplete picture of the writer’s original intentions.

First-year Haidar Khan felt this firsthand when he tweeted about Nina Davuluri’s win in the 2013 Miss America Pageant. “[The Toronto Star] misinterpreted what I tweeted, and thought I was calling the Indian-American Miss America a foreigner,” Khan said. What started as a facetious tweet pointing out the irony of some white Americans’ anger (who were foreigners to this continent a mere three centuries ago) ended up appearing on the Star’s website and was falsely represented to a much larger audience than Khan’s base of followers.

The problem on display here is present not just with Twitter or social media, but the Internet as a whole. Once you create something and put it on the Internet, you’ve essentially lost control of it. It can’t be easily taken back, erased, or clarified. The result is that if you wish to stay away from the possibility of having your words twisted, you have to toe a somewhat restrictive line.

However, does limiting yourself defeat the purpose of social media? Social media has been touted as nothing less than a modern medium in which to express ourselves. There are some, like sophomore Ross Larson, who think this form of self-expression may have gone overboard. “[People’s] constant need to share everything: food on Instagram, thoughts on Twitter, I don’t want to follow it or keep up with it,” Larson said.

With Twitter currently seeing over 147,000 tweets being sent out a second, it’s clear that people across the world are using Twitter as a platform to say, well, whatever comes to mind at that specific moment.At what cost though? The rest of this piece can be spent discussing lofty ideals and values like “self-expression” or “freedom,” but it’s easier to speak in pragmatic terms.

Once we each move out of our idealistic early 20s and get our fill of “raging against the machine,” we each want a steady income and a decent reputation. We’ll each be sitting across from an interviewer, hoping that they never bring up what tweets you sent out or what pictures you happened to be tagged in. “It’s easy to think that no one is looking,” sophomore Grant Blayney said.

However we have to confront the uncomfortable fact that people are looking, and will continue to be for some time. “It’s going to be fascinating…our grandkids are going to be able to read these [tweets]. The Library of Congress is cataloguing them,” Larson said.This isn’t meant to be the same rehashed cautionary tale that everyone had heard in some career seminar or from their parents. Choices are going to be made and consequences are going to be doled out. It is, however, a larger question of how we want to be viewed in our public lives and by posterity. The content balancing act isn’t an easy game to play, but as social media continues to be an integral force in society, the stakes of that game only increase.

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