Social Media and the Perils of Posting

Social Media
Social media can be a peril. Just ask Patrick and Dana Snay. By now most everyone has heard the recent news of a man in Florida who was to receive $80,000 as part of a confidential lawsuit settlement stemming from a wrongful termination case. Unfortunately his teenage daughter posted some details about it on Facebook to 1,200 friends. There went the confidentiality clause and the settlement money flew out the window. The moral of this tale? Social media can be hazardous both to a person’s pocketbook and their well-being.

It would not be the first time a misguided social media posting has caused someone grief but that may be one of the more expensive examples if you don’t count losing a job. The truth is that many people seem to have no ability to censor themselves on social media and are still oblivious to the domino effect of social media postings, be they pictures, comments, videos or links.

It is estimated that 73 percent of online adults are using social media networking sites. That is nearly one in four people worldwide. Almost two billion people worldwide are said to be part of the global social media network audience. That is a lot of potential for boo boos.

In the ancient days of social media (circa 2005), folks seemed content to post innocuous comments and pictures. As social media has progressed, however, there have been many reported instances of ill-timed and insensitive postings and tweets. Incivility seems more rampant. People get into heated, polarizing, even toxic, arguments on social media. Friendships and family relationships have been shattered due to social media.

Spouses and significant others have been lost on social media. Even though Facebook monitors itself, many people still think it is okay to post lewd and lascivious pictures online. Jobs have also been lost or else placed in serious jeopardy.

In some instances Facebook postings are making their way into court as documentary “evidence” of someone’s wrongdoing. In California recently, a man was protesting his “peacefulness” during a restraining order hearing when the opposing attorney submitted his Facebook profile picture as evidence to the contrary. The picture showed the man pointing one of his rifles menacingly at the camera. The judge didn’t think the picture was of someone with no propensity for violence. The result was that she issued the restraining order against him.

A Denver math teacher tweeted about her “hot” students and the fact that she likes to smoke pot. She was placed on administrative leave and was eventually fired.

A Georgia school bus driver posted something on his Facebook account that he was told by a student, that she was denied lunch at school because she could not come up with 40 cents. The school asked him to take down the post but he refused and was fired.

A barista at a local coffee shop in Seattle wrote a private blog where he complained about the job. His employer fired him, saying he was writing about his place of employment during work hours.

Two workers at a Domino’s pizza posted videos of themselves performing unsanitary acts on foods they were preparing. The videos somehow went viral. Not only were the two employees fired, they were brought up on felony charges.

Comedian Gilbert Gottfried, who is the voice of the Aflac duck in its popular TV commercials, was fired by the insurance company after he tweeted some insensitive jokes about the 2011 tsunami in Japan.

In Florida a female English teacher was modeling provocative lingerie on the side under another name. The school found out and asked her to resign.

At the end of the day, what does it all mean? Well it is probably a safe bet to say that people are jumping onboard the social media train without consulting any social media etiquette guide as they do. The reality, however, is that many people simply do not have the skill set or maturity to handle highly charged communications on-line.

People should pause to remember that anything they post on social media is not really private. They should also resist the temptation of posting too fast and think hard about whom their audience really is. The best advice is for people to stop and think about they post. As a general rule, it is just is not a good idea to make rude, offensive, negative and insulting comments. Otherwise, ill-chosen social media postings can prove to be a peril.

By Jim McCullaugh

USA Today
New York Magazine
The Harvard Crimson
The Huffington Post