Mr. Dash has been thinking about his behavior on social media for a while. Together with Gina Trapani, the former editor of the blog Lifehacker, he is a co-founder of ThinkUp, a year-old subscription service that analyzes how people comport themselves on Twitter andFacebook, with the goal of helping them become more thoughtful, less reflexive, more empathetic and more professional — over all, better behaved.
In addition to a list of people’s most-used words and other straightforward stats like follower counts, ThinkUp shows subscribers more unusual information such as how often they thank and congratulate people, how frequently they swear, whose voices they tend to amplify and which posts get the biggest reaction and from whom.
That is the point. “The goal is to make you act like less of a jerk online,” Ms. Trapani said. “The big goal is to create mindfulness and awareness, and also behavioral change.”
She pointed out that people often tweet and update without any perspective about themselves. That’s because Facebook and Twitter, as others have observed, have a way of infecting our brains. Because social networks often suggest a false sense of intimacy, they tend to lower people’s self-control. Like a drug or perhaps a parasite, they worm into your devices, your daily habits and your every free moment, and they change how you think.
For those of us most deeply afflicted, myself included, every mundane observation becomes grist for a 140-character quip, and every interaction a potential springboard into an all-consuming, emotionally wrenching flame battle.
“There’s a knee-jerk thoughtlessness and lack of empathy that you have because you’re online, because you’re not looking at people’s faces,” Ms. Trapani said.
One of the biggest dangers is saying something off the cuff that might make sense in a particular context, but that sounds completely off the rails to the wider public. The problem, in other words, is acting without thinking — being caught up in the moment, without pausing to reflect on the long-term consequences. You’re never more than a few taps away from an embarrassment that might ruin your career, or at least your reputation, for years to come.
Being made aware of that — getting a daily reminder from ThinkUp that there are good ways and bad ways to behave online — has a tendency to focus the mind.
For starters, your online profile plays an important role in how you’re perceived by potential employers. In a recent survey commissioned by the job-hunting site CareerBuilder, almost half of companies said they perused job-seekers’ social networking profiles to look for red flags and to see what sort of image prospective employees portrayed online.
Mr. Dash and Ms. Trapani argue that the future is increasingly social — that most jobs are going to become more connected, and that online image will become more important.
Why it’s Hot: While this service has not taken off yet. That may change as more people falter on social networks, either by posting unthinking comments that end up damaging their careers. After all, Twitter and Facebook don’t come with a built-in guide letting people know how to excel in social.