Social Media Common Sense

Social Media Common Sense
By Rachel Healy

Every week, if not every other day, there seems to be a new head-scratching example of social media stupidity that teaches the rest of us sentient beings what not to do in the public sphere.

One would think by now that the average Internet user would be more savvy given the staggering number of instances of online idiocy that traditional media just loves to mock, but unfortunately things seem to be going in the opposite direction.

Or else there’s just more of us watching and listening, which brings to mind a twist on the age-old adage; “If a twit types alone in a sea of Tweeters and no one is around to physically see it, does it make a virtual sound?”

The answer, of course, is a resounding “YES!” because as we (should) all know by now that the very nature of the online world is that it never sleeps.  The scary truth is that in this day and age, with screenshots and eager Internet users ready day and night with their fingers literally on the button to catch any manner of slip-ups, it’s no longer a matter of simply deleting any offending faux pas.

This is especially true with the existence of sites like Politwoops, which records tweets politicians would rather forget. Every handler’s worst nightmare.

Politicos, it seems, are more prone than any other to commit social media slip ups. Is it the public nature of politics itself or the caliber of representatives who often unwittingly debase themselves in “civic engagement”?

Take Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose Twitter feed briefly followed a Persian erotica account before unfollowing it on Sunday, according to The Times of Israel. Netanyahu’s Likud party said in a statement that it managed the page and was investigating a “malfunction,” according to the BBC.

And let’s not even tarnish this URL by citing the case of ‘Carlos Danger’ and the ultimate misuse of social media. Suffice it to say that The Weiner Monologues debuts off-off-Broadway in November, described as “a devised Greek tragedy composed of found texts.” That’s all that needs to be said.

So, who’s the latest Twitter twit to hit the news?

None other than three Nova Scotian voters who recently posted photos of their provincial election ballots online; one being a political blogger who defended his actions by citing “political (free) speech.”

ENS explained that they responded via Twitter that the case had been referred to the RCMP to prevent, “a barrage of people thinking this was a good idea and doing it themselves.” Our version of 21st century tarring and feathering.

And even your Inbox is no longer safe with incriminating emails being swept under the carpet into your trash folder, but amplified with the power of a one-click “Forward” to take social media by storm. As demonstrated recently also by a fraternity member at Georgia Tech in the US, who shared such an offensive how-to pick-up guide with his cronies (with the subject line “Luring your Rapebait”), that’s another fine example of book smarts versus street smarts versus social media smarts in the 21st century.

The chapter member was suspended and forced to issue an apology on Thursday, with an investigation currently ongoing; reminiscent of the recent controversial frosh-week chants scandal in Canada.

The question is how do you avoid becoming just another #SM statistic? Two words that seem to have been overshadowed in our (online) dictionaries with made up words like twerking and selfie: common sense. Don’t post anything that could be construed as offensive, illegal or anything that can’t be permanently deleted.

Because you may think any problem is fixable and no harm has been done, but remember that someone is always watching. The sooner you come to terms with that fact, the less likely you’ll be to make a fool of yourself, your reputation or your brand.

Rachel Healy is a Corporate Communications & Social Media Manager. Find her at and on Twitter: @RachelHealyIre

Photo Credit: azipaybarah via Photo Pin | Creative Commons