I took on a new role just over a year ago and part of the job description was social media manager. I had an account on Facebook that I used to organize my rec level sports teams and to keep up with family and friends. I checked twitter a few times a day to keep up with technology trends and my favorite pro sports teams. But neither had been a part of my life until I was in my late twenties. Now it was not only time to run a social media program on a professional level, but to also coach students in a post secondary setting on how to represent themselves safely and professionally. To the internet I went.
I had ideas on what some of the pitfalls might be, what many of the dangers that lurk in the anonymity that permeates every forum, platform, app and website might look like, but I had only scratched the surface. Part of the process I’ve undergone was attending a seminar at a conference in June where Jesse Miller from Mediated Reality presented information specifically aimed at post secondary student social media transgressions.
He touched on how companies would employ or bring in specialists who could monitor social media posts in real time or dig into the history of those involved with their companies. Any posts made publicly, whether currently live or thought to be deleted, even with the best of intentions, could come back to haunt students on practicum or work placement. Some examples were of an innocent if naïve nature, including a picture meant to show off a new water bottle which also included confidential patient information on a piece of paper elsewhere in the photo. More egregious examples included a snap chat showing a student taking a drink of beer from a bottle that had been hidden away in the work place. Another was a picture tweeted of an unknowing patient along with some disparaging remarks about the patient and the students’ work day. In all cases, the intended recipient never brought the posts forward, all were found by people hired to protect these companies and to enforce the social media policies that all of these students had agreed to when given these work placement opportunities. In each of these cases, the offending student had been removed not only from the work assignment, but from their program entirely.
In discussing examples like these with the students I work with on a regular basis, the consistent theme is how quickly and easily a post like those can be made, either without realizing the ramifications of the content or not taking the time to realize what else might be included in their pictures and videos. Just as emails can be easily constructed in a moment of anger and sent before cooler minds prevail, social media posts can damn the sender, but to such a wider audience, even faster. As fun and expressive as these platforms can allow us to be, seeing how easily a single erred post can be found and made to undo years of hard work, the gravity of their social media presence has magnified in even my short time with them. I’m glad to see that it hasn’t scared them off, but encouraged them to be more thoughtful and responsible when participating in the social media world.