Social media’s dark side: students need to exercise more caution

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Social media offers citizens, corporations and organization enormous benefits. Accounts such as Facebook, Flickr, Pinterest and Twitter offer a crucial marketing strategy for large companies as well the common individual: free advertising.

The biggest-name celebrity can make significant donations to charities of their choice by requesting a simple re-tweet from their followers. Companies use public relations experts to present a carefully crafted imaged to the public. Many tweets and status updates that are posted every day can be innocent expressions of individuality, ways to blow off some steam, or just for fun. The best part of social media is that it is all free and available to anyone that can type and access the Internet. It is the personal brand one wishes to present to the public that is portrayed through social media.

Though it is important for media-centered public figures like celebrities, large companies and politicians to keep a clean-cut image, these social media accounts allow us to share information at such a rapid pace that sensitive posts have become as commonplace as they are devastating.

Recall the public backlash University of Kansas professor David Guth received after tweeting, “#NavyYardShooting The blood is on the hands of the #NRA. Next time, let it be YOUR sons and daughters. Shame on you. May God damn you.” Although his opinion was protected by free speech, the content of the tweet was what challenged his professional responsibility. And as the university came under fire for Guth’s tweet, he was put on administrative leave as those who supported and opposed him argued on free speech. Nothing in Guth’s situation was anything new in a world that has become so obsessed with social media.

However, whether it is a heat-of-the-moment post, a clear mistake, or actually meaningful, the public must be aware that their posts to social media can come with consequences – just as Guth’s did.

But be weary about potential damages that can accompany posting.

What some may fail to realize about social media accounts is that it’s not only these large public figures that are under constant surveillance, but also everyone who has access to post, tweet and share. Even if the consequences of using your own social media haphazardly may not be as severe as work leave, there is always someone that might take things the wrong way. There is always going to be someone who is sensitive towards virtually any subject.

As students, we are all under watch by future employers who may want access to your social media accounts, so they can take a personal look into our backgrounds and thoughts. Whether in a simple post to encourage followers throughout their day, or publicly humiliating other accounts, our words and posts may forever be engraved on the Internet.

Even if one might regret a certain tweet and is quick to delete it, someone, somewhere might already have a screenshot or shared the post. The most important part is to be aware of the dangers. This doesn’t mean that social media, even in its meanest form, can’t be used for something positive. Sometimes the consequences may reveal themselves as an opportunity for others.

In his 2012 season, television host Jimmy Kimmel added a new segment to his show where celebrities read off rude tweets posted by people who never thought their comment would be seen. In the segment, now called “Mean Tweets” Kimmel gives a humorous spin to the public’s view of some of the world’s most famous celebrities.

In his most recent musical edition of “Mean Tweets,” Kimmel brought musician John Mayer to read off a vulgar tweet directed at him, reading, “John Mayer looks like a booze-socked turd wrapped in a Dumb and Dumber tux.”

With his segment, Kimmel demonstrated that there are ways to twist a tweet or post into a means for some good fun.

Another example of this is spoof accounts. There are countless of these social media accounts that, under the guise of fictional representation, amuse the public with the simplest post.

Regardless of the user’s purpose or a post’s intent, responsibility and awareness are the best assets one can take when venturing into social media. Young professionals can use social media to their advantage in representing the values and characteristics future employers are looking for.

Sid Arguello is a senior in psychology. Please send comments to opinion@kstatecollegian.com.

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