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article imageOp-Ed: Thinking twice when using social media

By Leigh Goessl     Feb 25, 2012 in Internet
Social media has pretty much changed the dynamics of the social web. While individual communities have been a part of the web since its inception, how the socialized web exists has significantly changed over time.
There are many networks out there with a large membership. Figure there's Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr, and the growing Google+, to name just a few. Nowadays it is becoming rarer to find people not connected to at least one major network.
Even back in the early days of the web, social media wasn't the entity that exists today. People posted on America Online under anonymous chat names on the various bulletin boards, not the real-identity posting that is encouraged today.
Granted, there is still room for 'chat names' on some networks, but as websites, such as Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn remain prominent and require members to use 'real' identities, the game changes. No longer can people post comments or images without running the risk of some sort of backlash. And, depending on what's being shared, there are often real consequences.
It's kind of hard to feel 'social' when one has to constantly look over the 'digitalized' shoulder.
Nowadays, it has become more important for people to think twice when posting content on social media. It can result in not getting hired, getting fired, cause friction within the relationships in your life, or, in some cases, even get you arrested.
Recently a high school math and science teacher, who was also a football coach, had to resign after he accidentally posted a naked image of himself on Facebook. Not only was this embarrassing for him, even if he didn't post the image for the public Facebook community to see, who is to say that image wouldn't have been forwarded inadvertently (or intentionally) by the recipient he'd originally intended. Once something goes online, one never knows where it will end up.
In 2010, a North Carolina waitress learned the hard way not to come home from work and vent out her day on Facebook. After complaining about a customer who had spent a long amount of time at the table and then stiffed her in her tip, she ended up losing her job.
It's not a real secret employers routinely scope out social media, and as of last year, Forbes reported there is a company employers can hire to do the dirty work; essentially a background check that scours the web looking for information.
Digital Journal reported earlier this month about a man who ended up in court after he dressed up in boxer shorts and a tank top, and subsequently took a photo of himself holding a gun, with the intention to post to Facebook. This landed him in hot water.
These are only a few incidences, but there are so many examples of how not considering what's posted can lead to serious consequences.
As if maintaining one's own reputation wasn't enough, there is always potential someone, whether it’s a family member, friend, stranger or colleague, may spill the beans about a 'wild' weekend or other potentially embarrassing event. As an example, a private message, such as the aforementioned nude picture was intended to be, could be easily splashed through a list of contacts ether accidentally, or on purpose. Let's face it, relationships sometimes go bad, and there's no guarantee privacy will remain.
Recently the University of Maryland created some "ground rules" for student athletes where social media is concerned. Businesses are also creating social media policies in order to establish guidelines. However, individuals should be concerned too.
While it is nearly impossible to totally prevent gaffes occurring where social media is concerned, the negative consequences could be reduced. Using privacy settings, paying close mind to identifiers, such as Facebook 'tags', and overall watching what's posted in the first place, an online reputation can be better preserved.
Although, a recent poll conducted by The Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project showed people are paying attention to these issues, and monitoring their connections, content and privacy settings.
Digital Journal noted in a recent report covering this poll, 10 percent of "profile owners regret posts they have made."
Digital footprints are everywhere, and perhaps not unlike fossilized footsteps, electronic traces may not disappear so quickly either; chances are they are saved by someone, somewhere. By maintaining a good social media reputation, it is a lot easier to reduce the possibility of creating an undesired situation.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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