When T.J. Neely came home to Minneapolis from prison recently, he shut down his Facebook page. All of his friends and connections deactivated. To many, this may have seemed like social suicide, but Neely described it as simply a way to build a new life.

Neely, 25, was a former gang leader who got caught up in a lot of online drama. Fights would often start on social media, which led to more tension building up in real life.

“I used to post random things, like, ‘I’m here, looking for some friends.’ But really, all I did was open my door for the wrong kind of attention,” he said.

After deactivating his old page, Neely is building a new one and only admitting the friends he trusts.

“I doubt that I have even 100 friends now,” he said. “I don’t think I’ve even broken 50 yet.”

Neely’s experience shows how social media can make bad things worse, and how young mistakes can last in cyberspace forever. It’s not just friends who see what you post. It could be your high school counselor, the admissions office at the college you want to attend, or the company you want to work for.

It could even be the police.

Read the Full Article by Deborah Honore over at 360journalism.org