Social Media: A Tool for Good or Evil?

Bobbi Larsen
Bobbi Larsen
Education Consultant

Social media is ubiquitous these days. People share everything … their activities, thoughts, meals, and social lives … on all kinds of different platforms. People are tied to their phones to record moments, post them, and keep up with what all their friends are posting. Social media can be educational, entertaining, and enlightening, but it can also be risky for individuals and organizations.

How are you presenting yourself?

For college students in particular, potential employers, faculty members, law enforcement, business colleagues, and family members all have the potential of searching you out — now and in the future. Will you lose out on that great job interview because of something posted while you were drinking (for example: ”Life after Cheese Infamy: Remembering Mac and Cheese Kid”)? Will an ill-conceived rant about a professor impact your ability to get into graduate school? Will you become infamous due to a posting that goes viral (for example: ”How One Stupid Tweet Blew Up Justine Sacco’s Life”)?

How are you presenting your organization?

A fraternity chapter was recently shut down as a result of a “grossly offensive” party invitation that made national news. Another case involved a “private” Facebook page that not only featured inappropriate images of women, but also provided evidence of hazing and drug use. Still another situation involved not one but two party invitations considered to be racially offensive. The chapter made the situation worse in trying to fix it with a second post.

How are you presenting others?

If you post photographs or information about someone that can be construed to be an invasion of their privacy or in a false light, you may be sued under the broad rubric of “privacy.” If you post an alleged fact about someone that proves incorrect, you may be liable for damages under either defamation or libel. A plaintiff was awarded a significant amount in a recent case for not only the false things someone had posted about him, but also because those falsehoods were reposted by other third-party social media users.

What can you do?

  • Be aware of the privacy settings of your accounts and their updates
  • Monitor your own online presence and keep your best foot forward
  • Be sensitive about the other people in your pictures and videos, and don’t post anything about them you wouldn’t want them to post about you
  • Consider the way you’re depicting your organization
  • Develop and follow organizational policies regarding social media

Thing to remember:

  • Anything you post will eventually become public.
  • Anything you post can and will be used against you.
  • If you post something epically stupid, it will go viral.

Simply put, social media can be a great tool to keep in contact with people, post updates about your life, Tweet interesting photos, etc. But if you’re not careful, it can also land you in a whole lot of hot water. Always think about the repercussions before posting anything!

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