With the Internet and smart phones, it’s easy to snap a picture, tap a few keys, click ‘like’ and share thoughts, history, pictures and videos. Once they hit the Internet, especially if it is available to the public to view, it is not so easy to control what happens to the shared information and photography.
Time and again we have heard the warnings to be careful about what we share, but there is another, happier side to all this – the ease of spreading the news or asking for help.
Posting did not require a lot of forethought for my daughter and her husband last month. The last few years he has competed in the half-triathlons involving swimming, running and bicycling. He discovered a company willing to sponsor him as a competitor – if he talked about their product and viewers voted for him. His request for support showed up on my Facebook page, and I began voting every day. Three or four weeks went by with daily reminders to vote posted by either him or my daughter. After a couple of days my computer automatically pulled up the page when I typed in the first letter or two of the website.
Then the voting period ended.
A couple of days later, I asked, as did several others on Facebook, “Did you get enough votes? Did you win?”
He didn’t know yet. No one knew.
A week or more later, I was scrolling down Facebook postings one evening and read my daughter’s post, “If you were voting for Jacob last month, we just found out that he did win a spot on Team Refuel!!! YAAAAAY! He has to do some paperwork, but we are so thrilled! Thanks for your voting and support!”
I literally gasped. Then I grinned and pressed “like.”
Within the day, I saw that more than 100 people had tapped ‘like’ on both my daughter’s and her husband’s announcement of his sponsorship. We all had voted day after day. We were interested, and we liked to know it mattered.
Thinking back to the era of letters, typewriters and mimeograph machines, the speed of sharing information in 2014 astounds me. It would have taken much more money, time and effort to do the same thing in, say, the 1950s or 1960s.
Interaction comes quickly even though miles separate us. Sunday my daughter posted, “After church today, I was talking with my kids about how sometimes I yell, and I really don’t like that because I know they learned to yell from me. Sweet Caroline responded, “Oh, Mom, you don’t always yell. But next time you feel like yelling, you should just take a deep breath and say it nicely.” Such sage advice from my 4-year-old.”
Within the first hour of her posting that, others coming home from church sat down to check their Facebook pages and she had 28 likes from Arkansas to Alaska. She also had my comment, “We hope the sage 4 year-old takes her own advice.” Advice that this four-year-old, the family’s screamer, probably heard from her mother in the first place anyway.
Information travels quickly. Perhaps the best example comes from another Facebook page called “Brandon’s Science Fair Experiment.”
A friend shared a picture of a boy in middle school holding a sign that said “Science project. Social media, how far will my picture travel in just five days? Just five days. Please comment where you see me. Thank you, Brandon.”
Friends linked to me said that they saw his picture in Bath, N.Y.; Fort Wayne, Ind.; Broken Arrow, Okla.; Mainz, Germany; and, of course, El Dorado. He received 4,360 likes and comments from 6,357 viewers.
His mother could not believe the results. She posted the following: “BRANDON JUST VISITED 124 COUNTRIES IN ONLY 24 HOURS AND WENT TO ALL 50 STATES IN USA!!!!!”
His response reflected the goodness of folks asked to take 15 seconds to type in their location: I saw the Czech Republic, Dubae, Rotterdam, Holland; Victoria, Australia, Thailand, Philippines, Denmark, a military base in Sicily, and on and on around the world.
Of course, with his mother’s permission, Brandon had done his experiment using the option to have his posting be public to everyone. Most people choose to only allow family or friends to view their postings. We used to be astonished at the speed of communication with the telephone and telegraph. We now have “Tell-a-friend on social media.”
It is astounding.
It is a great tool.
It must be used wisely. Remember, you really do not know everyone who will see your posting.
(Joan Hershberger is a staff writer at the News-Times and author of “Twenty Gallons of Milk.” Email her at joanh at everybody.org)