Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Dangers of Social Media: What You Do or Say Can and Will be Held Against You

Spending every waking moment on social media sites is all the rage now. Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, SodaHead or one of the hundreds of other social sites on the internet, it’s simple for anyone to post or tweet various announcements or observations to the world. But, with the that freedom is a devastating downside. A moment’s weakness can end up costing you dearly -- for a long time.

Take the case of Jean-Sun Hannah Ahn, the reigning Miss Seattle. In a moment of candor – or weakness – she sent a couple of tweets awhile back that are coming back to haunt her. The first was “Ew I seriously am hating Seattle right now…”, and the second one complained “Take me back to az!!! Ugh can’t stand cold rainy Seattle and the annoying people.”

While many Seattleites would agree that the weather here is lousy most of the year, the part about “annoying people” really didn’t sit well with people, especially after Ms. Ahn was crowned Miss Seattle recently. With the notoriety came media attention, and there was her tweet for all of Seattle (and the world) to see. Representing Seattle as she was, it is bad mojo for her to be annoyed with the people she will represent soon in the Miss Washington pageant. She has apologized for her lapse of judgment, but the damage is already done.

Social Media has allowed people to keep in touch easier than ever, and makes it a breeze to collect “friends” and pontificate on every subject imaginable. But, being out there also means your privacy is compromised, and anything you say will be compounded by the internet. Sharing too much can get you in plenty of trouble, whether it’s just complaining about a city's rainfall,corrupt government, admitting to crimes, or just posting revealing photos of yourself on the Web.

Naw, It Won't Happen to Me
Vanessa Hudgens, a young singer and actress who became famous after she co-starred with Zack Effron in the High School Musical TV movie, was just a wannabe in 2007 when she posted a collection of nude photos of herself that went viral after she became well-known. It was not a big deal at the time, but once she was a rising star this compromised her “squeaky clean” image. It was a publicity nightmare for her, and those photos are still haunting her. Recently, it was reported that she had posted new nude photos of herself. Whether that's true or not, she doesn't get the benefit of the doubt any longer.

There are many, many examples of celebrities and athletes hurting or destroying their careers by an ill-conceived tweet, text or post. But, the average young person can fall into the same trap. An underage girl who puts a sexy, pouty-lipped photo up on social media site is looking for trouble. Not only might her parents see it, but strangers who may have bad intentions see this, too. They can get all the information they need to stalk their victim from the internet, so once you show everyone “you’re sexy and you know it”, you’re putting yourself in a potentially dangerous situation.

Bad language is another ‘no-no’ on the net. Not only is it offensive to some of your ‘friends’, but parents have software that they can install that will notify them of vulgar language on your posts, even if they aren’t part of your network. Watch what you say and how you say it.

Bad for Business

In the business world, a post or photo that boasts of drunkenness or dishonesty can keep you from getting the job that you really want. Potential employers regularly check social media sites when doing background checks on job applicants. If you’ve bragged about shoplifting, vandalizing or doing drugs, you can be sure that your potential employer will think twice before hiring you. (On second thought, they probably won’t think more than once, and the answer will be 'no'.)

Social media can be fun and entertaining, but the downside can be pretty devastating, especially if you don’t take precautions when socializing on the Web. With freedom comes responsibility. Be very careful what you write or photos you post and remember that, once it’s out on the internet, there’s no way of getting it back. You may very well live to regret it!

Sources: Seattle Times, Associated Press reports