I‚Äôm kind of glad there was no social media around when I was a teenager ‚Ä¶ because I was a jerk. Off the top of my head I can think of half a dozen dumb-arse things I said and did that would have got me chased off the internet today, and no I‚Äôm not going to tell you what they were. Because you‚Äôd totally chase me off the internet for them.
Most people, I‚Äôd guess, are jerks at some point or another in their lives. If they‚Äôre lucky they get to grow out of it. Nowadays, if they‚Äôre not, they get to trend for a couple of hours, and maybe lose their jobs, a bunch of friends, and whatever lives them‚Äôve carved out for themselves.
The way that Facebook and Twitter, but especially Facebook, have become the archives of our imperfect selves and baser impulses isn‚Äôt the worst thing about them. (That would be the way they destroyed the basic consensus on what should be agreed to as a self-evident fact, allowing bad-faith actors, demagogues and actual Nazis to take a solid run kicking the legs out from under our civilisation). But no, one of the smaller, less apocalyptic ways social media has ruined everything, is by sucking all the air out of the safe space we used to afford anyone under the age of, say, 25, to really cock things up.
Your teens and your early 20s are that time when you try on different faces, attitudes, and occasionally some really stupid shit. Sometimes life pushes back and sits you down on your arse, hard. It‚Äôs how we learn not to do so much stupid shit. It‚Äôs where the subject-object division gets broken down and if you‚Äôre a halfway decent human being, it‚Äôs when you learn that it‚Äôs not all about you and your stupidity. Other people exist, they matter, and they have feelings that ‚ÄĒ hear me out now ‚ÄĒ count for just as much as yours.
Social media‚Äôs Eye of Sauron, which sees all and never forgets, has burnt away the shadowing effect of time‚Äôs passage that lets our mistakes slip into history, where they can inform us, but without destroying us.