Privacy and Accountability on Social Media

Privacy and Accountability on Social Media

The progression of online interaction has embarked on a new state of reality where privacy no longer exists. At the beginning of social media, online participants erred on the side of caution, to ensure their online persona did not interfere with their daily lives. While this remains true today, the combination of handheld camera devices and the ability to share content at any given moment (to anyone in the world) requires individual accountability for their lives both on and off the screen.

The phrase, “you are what you eat” has taken a new meaning in the digital arena….

Are you what you post?

Social media profiles have become an intricate ingredient, interweaving our social and professional lives.  For students, our online activities will come back to us on college or job applications.  For business professionals, the work to life distinction gets blurred when our managers and colleagues have immediate and direct access to our online personas. 

In a sense, we are creating online autobiographies that give others the opportunity to see a different side of us.  If your social media accounts are linked to a business or school you interact with, we often forget that we are acting as a reflection of the groups and businesses we advertise ourselves as being associated with. If a socially inappropriate effort is made in a publicized area in real life, bystanders have the right, and the tendency, (and at times, even the social responsibility) to record and send to anyone, or upload to any platform at their individualized discretion. This has been recognized in the media more and more recently causing individuals to be called to face real consequences.  Recently, there has been a tremendous uptick in the loss of employment, scholarships, and future opportunities due as a direct result of an individual's post, comment, or tweet.  Consequently, this can also lead to a downward spiral of becoming the victim of cyber threats, bullying, and more.  

For many of us, we have been building new profiles and engaging in new platforms for years.  As we change as individuals and our personalities and viewpoints evolve over time, our posts can act as a permanent reminder of our prior selves. The individual you identify with today is likely vastly different from who you were 5 to 10 years ago.  

Let’s take a look at a few who have been under fire this week alone for their social media posts…

  • L.A. Galaxy parted ways with a player whose wife made offensive Instagram posts. Midfielder Aleksandar Katai’s wife Tea Katai posted twice on her Instagram, the first post calling for protesters to be killed, and the second showing a suspected looter holding a shoebox with the caption, "Black Nikes Matter." The Galaxy states they stand against racism leading to the mutual decision to release Katai from the team.
  • Marquette University rescinds recruit's admission and scholarship over a George Floyd Snapchat post. The snap included the following content, “some ppl think it’s ok to f****** kneel during the national anthem so it’s ok to kneel on someone’s head. come at me. y’all brainwashed. kind disgusting lowkey." Students began sharing the screenshot with Marquette University demanding her acceptance be reconsidered.
  • Vanderpump Rules cast members Stassi Schroeder and Kristen Doute were fired from their spots on the reality series after reporting a fellow Black coworker on the show, Faith Stowers, to the police for a crime she’d had nothing to do with. Newer members of the show including Max Boyens and Brett Caprioni will also not be returning to the show due to the uncovering of previous racist tweets. 
  • Former Bachelorette Hannah Brown has come under fire after rapping the N-word on an Instagram Live story while singing lyrics to a song. After the particularly harmful word was spoken Brown originally attempted to play it off but after fans and fellow co-stars called attention to her discrepancy she came out with a written apology deemed not good enough prompting her to follow up with a video acknowledgment of the injustice and pain she caused within the community she offended. 
  • The CEO of Crossfit, a program that provides continuing education and professional development opportunities for physicians, health-care professionals, and trainers, Greg Glassman stepped down from his position after he tweeted on "It's FLOYD-19", an apparent reference to Covid-19. He followed it up with a second tweet saying: "Your failed model quarantined us and now you're going to model a solution to racism? George Floyd's brutal murder sparked riots nationally." The result of his tweets generated athletes, gyms and sportswear firms cut ties with his brand.

What should we do if we regret something previously launched into the online atmosphere?

  • Take the post down. For and foremost, remove the post from your social media platforms.  Although others may have a screenshot, or share the post with their followers, extracting the content from your platform can help prevent hate- building with the users you interact with, and assist in separating you from the material you shared.  Be sure to screenshot it before you eliminate the post altogether. This ensures that you can recall exactly what you may be held accountable for.  
  • Craft a genuine apology.  While apologies can be difficult to perfect it is imperative that you use the appropriate language and avoid making excuses or rationalizing your actions. Validate the feelings of the individuals you may have affected in the post(s) by taking responsibility.  Discuss how you are going to educate yourself and empower better behavior from yourself and your community. This public apology should be expressed within a reasonable time from the incident.
  • Wait it out. Time heals all wounds. For your sake, and for the well-being of users that you collaborate with online, give yourself permission to pause. Take a much-needed vacation from the digital world to alleviate any agony conceived. Consider erasing your account(s) altogether and starting a new one. This may be a challenging concept, but sometimes a fresh start permits you to leave behind a bulk of association you carry, and you can start thinking differently about your platforms and how you chose to interact with them.
  • Do Better. Actions speak louder than words. Offering remorse is only the beginning of the road to repairing damage to your online brand. Use this experience to grow and become an advocate within your community. Set out on a path of determination to cultivate other’s knowledge on the topic to ensure they do not repeat the same mistakes you made.

It’s time to hit the reset button and be proactive….

No one’s past is unblemished, but as soon as those imperfections are called to attention in the realm of digital networks, it can be hard to tidy up your accounts and protect yourself from negative online exposure.  It is vital to get in front of these shortcomings.

  • Polish your account. Routinely comb through your online account records. Withdraw any subject matter that you believe may not be an accurate reflection of the individual you wish to be, or how you want others to see you. Trust your gut. If you have the slightest hesitation about a post, it is most likely off-brand content that needs to be dismissed from your online personality.
  • You don’t have to follow everyone. Review who you follow and who follows you.  Do you really want hundreds of people having direct access to your daily life?  
  • Questions to ask yourself… Are they family or a close friend? Do I know them in person? Are they positive? Would we hang out? Do they bring joy to my life? If you find yourself selecting no for a majority of these answers, then extract them from your audience pool.  
  • Privacy is the best policy!  Protect yourself, your future self, and your family, by setting ALL of your profiles to private. This can restrict the spread of your information and promise that only your selected group can see your displayed message.
  • Treat your post like a stop sign.  Look at it before you post it!  And then look at it just one more time.   It isn’t enough to just sweep former posts under the rug. You must actively engage in critical thinking when plotting future online activity. If you wouldn’t want this post stationed on a billboard above your school, or place of employment, then don’t put it out there for others to observe on the internet. Once the post is out there for users to see, it can be exploited, creating serious consequences for all parties involved.

Ready to take action and control of your social media platforms?  Contact Smart Gen Society for Social Media Reset resources. We are here to help you take action to become more authentic on your channels, protect your privacy and data, and empower meaningful communication between you, your families, friends and colleagues, and all of those you are connected with.

This information does not guarantee online safety and is provided as a courtesy of Smart Gen Society.  SGS is not legally responsible for your family's digital planning or safety.