Social media has continually gained prevalence in the lives of people around the world. Increasingly, it is a place for people to rant and joke. People cuss, say mean things, get into fights, vent, complain or post whatever comes to mind. A lot of people don’t realize the seriousness of what’s posted on social media. This applies to every social media platform, whether it’s Facebook, Vine, Twitter, etc. It’s vitally important for you to carefully think through the consequences of what you post.
I would argue that Twitter one of the most dangerous when it comes to consequences. Why? Yes, you can get in trouble no matter the platform, but Twitter is unique in that anyone can see what you post, unless you are private. It is not like other platforms where you typically post things that only a private network can view. When you post something on Twitter, it is out there for the entire world to see.
Perhaps you aren’t taking me seriously. Let me give you two examples. According to The New York Times, Dutch police recently arrested at 14-year-old girl because of a tweet. What could a young girl have possibly done that was so bad on Twitter? As you can see in the screen shot, she threatened American Airlines in a tweet posing as someone from a well-known terrorist group. As far as anyone knows, she is not connected with Al Qaida. The tweet was meant as a joke, but American Airlines does not take these jokes lightly. She learned that lesson the hard way.
Sadly, young people are not the only ones who have made this mistake. In another recent incident, a public relations professional tweeted a rather racist joke before boarding a plane to Africa. You can see in the picture what she posted. According to reporter Ashley Southall, before getting fired Sacco worked as the communication director of InterActiveCorp (IAC). This tweet started a wildfire of fury on Twitter, resulting in her dismissal from the company before the plane even landed in Africa.
Shortly after this tweet, IAC responded by sending out the statement, “This is an outrageous, offensive comment that does not reflect the views and values of IAC. Unfortunately, the employee in question is unreachable on an international flight, but this is a very serious matter and we are taking appropriate action.”
It does not matter who you are or what your job, it is vital to be wise in your posts on social media. BBC News reporter Bill Thompson wrote an article titled “Be careful what you tweet.” In it he explained that social media has created a space where people feel free to fire quick responses, a space that encourages informality. People often use it for conversations that were previously private. I agree with his point. I think social media platforms have given people a feeling of freedom because they’re sitting behind a computer screen. Honestly, I’ve been tempted to feel more safe saying something rude on Facebook or Twitter because I am not saying it face-to-face.
What we all need to understand is that being online doesn’t negate the consequences of unwise decisions. Writer Joel Lee wrote a helpful article listing five ways Twitter can get you in trouble. He listed slander, self-incrimination, inappropriate jokes, threats and rule breaking as terrible ideas. I agree with everything he had to say, but these are not the only posts that can get you in trouble.
Especially in public relations, where we are representatives of the company or client, it is even more important because the entire company’s reputation is at stake. At all my internships, I haven’t had free reign on social media. I could choose to get upset and see it as them not trusting me, but this will be the same whether I am an intern or a full-time employee. Having someone else double-check the posts gives an extra level of security to the company reputation. It allows PR professionals to hold one another accountable, catch any mistakes and avoid possible disasters. As a rule of thumb, regardless of who you are or where you’re posting, always run it through what I call “the consequence test.” Think about the repercussions of what you’re about to post. Ask yourself if it will offend anyone. Use good judgment. If you’re unsure about something, ask another persons opinion. At the end of the day, take Twitter and every other platform seriously. Choices, even on social media, have consequences.