At least 25% of American young adults say they regret posting something on social media at least one time in their lives, according to a Mashable story. I’m surprised that number isn’t higher. When social networks are only one tap away on our smartphones and the share feature is only two taps away, it’s easy to go too far.

As a recent college graduate, I can attest to the fact students are being told over and over again not to post unsavory pictures of themselves on Facebook. The lectures tend to be the same in each class, usually ending in a final warning of “Don’t post anything you wouldn’t want your grandma to see” or
“Don’t post anything you wouldn’t want on a billboard in Times Square.”

I think this advice is great. As my colleague Lukas Treu wrote in a previous column on The Brew, online decency is imperative to maintain constructive conversation. Even though you (yes, you) are reading my words from a screen, I’m a real person typing them.

However, these decency warnings and tips do not encapsulate what’s happening on social platforms today. Students have taken the warning words to heart, and many now go above and beyond on Facebook. Some erase their last names (something I don’t think is necessary – it seems to indicate you have something to hide), some post content with no analysis or personality for fear of being wrong (I’d rather read an opinion I disagree with than no opinion at all) and a few stay away from social networks altogether.

On the other hand, new platforms like six-second mobile video app Vine and photo-sharing app Snapchat are taking the world by storm. “#SmackCam” is the latest trend on Vine, showcasing people pranking others by surprising them, hitting them in the face or some other random act of violence. Often, you can’t see who it is hitting whom because the act is filmed so fast, and the account used to post the video is not from the person who did the actual smacking. Unfortunately, unlike a public Facebook photo, a recruiter is much less likely to find a job candidate in a Vine video like this.

Of course, here’s the best thing about social media. It brings together people who need each other. Students find teachers. Customers find businesses (and businesses find customers). Friends meet friends. We make the connection that would have been impossible with that tweet, Instagram hashtag or Facebook share.

That said, I can’t say I have a solution for something like the #SmackCam craze. Violence is a global issue I can’t even begin to cover in this column. But what I do know — and what these public yet often unidentifiable videos prove — is that a person is much, much more than their social networks. Sure, someone’s Facebook profile may be locked up tight and their Twitter profile is scrubbed and full of professional content. But even in 2013, the best way to get to know people is to talk to them in person with phones and laptops tucked away.

What do you think is the best way to present yourself on social media? Do you have any advice for students or new professionals?