Tweet Regrets and Online Shaming: Hidden Ramifications of Digital Disasters

08/30/2017 11:32 am ET Updated Nov 05, 2017
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We live in an society of instantaneous digital reaction. From teens and adults suffering from FOMO (fear of missing out) especially when it pertains to their social media streams, to people struggling with literally turning off their devices, there is risk that you may be the next victim of a tweet regret or mispost.

Every day, the words and images we all choose to share can do more than simply embarrass us—they can affect our entire future. There are those who have been fired from their job for a tweet, surrendered a college scholarship for a post, or lost out on a new employment opportunity because of their online presence.

CareerBuilders 2017 survey revealed that 70 percent of employers use social media to screen applicants before they hire them and 54 percent of them will be eliminated for content found or their online behavior prior an interview.

Hidden ramifications.

Just because you have a job, doesn’t mean you will keep it. Majority of workplaces and colleges have social media policies in place. CareerBuilders survey said that 51 percent of employers regularly screen their workers social streams and will reprimand or fire in accordance to their guidelines.

Ken Storey, a now former professor for University of Tampa quickly learned how one rash tweet landed him on the unemployment line.

As someone that lives in Florida, we know firsthand the devastation of hurricanes as natural disasters, however Mr. Storey’s fingers must have taken over his common sense when he tweeted out about Hurricane Harvey:

"I dont believe in instant karma but this kinda feels like it for Texas. Hopefully this will help them realize the GOP doesnt care about them." - @klstorey

After deleting the tweet and his account, Ken Storey expressed remorse and shared with Fox 35 Orlando the following:

"I got caught up in the moment. I got caught up in the discourse we're having and I lowered myself to that. That is not who I am," Storey said. "I was talking about climate change. I was upset with what was happening but at this point, it doesn't matter. It matters how people took the tweet. For that, I apologize." 

Unfortunately for this professor, the damage was done. Not only was he out of a job, he was being shamed on social media by parents and University of Tampa alums.

Some People Call Them Posts, Attorneys Call Them Exhibit A

Everything you send or post online has the potential to end up an exhibit in court someday. Not everything you say or type online is appropriate or allowed. You have to learn the boundaries of free speech. Defamation is not condoned as part of free speech. Opinions or satire are one thing, but if you’re presenting something that is incorrect and damaging to an individual’s reputation as if it’s a statement of fact, it may land you in legal trouble.

What you post could also trigger an investigation that could land you in serious trouble. Life insurance companies are now using social media to screen clients’ applications. Did you conceal that you’re an avid scuba diver, while your spring break vacation photos give you away? Claim to be a nonsmoker, but your friend tags you in a photo with a cigarette between your lips? File for a workman’s comp claim for a back injury, then “check in” on the ski slopes? A charge of insurance fraud could do permanent damage to your online and off-line reputation.

Emotional impact of online shaming.

As cliché as this may sound, until you become a victim of digital abuse, it’s hard to know the pain that people (all ages) are enduring.

Being harassed online can leave many victims with the same psychological damage—or even worse. “Make no mistake, the pain of cybershaming can wreak havoc on mental health,” says Dr. Michele Borba author of UnSelfie. “Shame can be debilitating. It derails your entire reputation, especially online, you have no idea who knows. It hits the core of your identity, every part unravels, you’re ravished. After a while, you start to say, ‘Do I deserve this? Did I do wrong?’” And there is no age limit to online angst, Dr. Borba says. One seventy-one-year-old woman described her emotions to her this way:

“If I could just talk with someone that has dealt with a situation like this. It is absolutely smothering. She sucked everything except for my breath from my body. My brain, soul, heart [have] been bruised.”

Where to go from here.

Digital wisdom is digital survival. It’s time to take control of your digital life.

Oversharing can be one of the biggest reasons people get caught up in cyber-blunders. A PEW Survey said that 88 percent of teens believed that people overshare online. Is there a lesson here?

Let’s start slowing down and consider what we are putting online with some simple guidelines.

  • Sharing too much. It’s about time we understand that not every thought needs to be documented.
  • Sharing inappropriate material. The internet is unforgiving. It’s likely you won’t get a second chance once you hit send.
  • Sharing with the wrong people. Have you de-cluttered your friends/contact list lately? One bad apple can literally take down your online reputation. Create lists on Facebook and Twitter.
  • Sharing in haste. If you have a debatable comment or image, remember to think on it for 24 hours. It’s likely you shouldn’t post it.
  • Sharing without dignity. You are a role model to someone. People are watching you. Post with respect. Be responsible.

For more insights on tweet regrets and hidden ramifications from online disasters, order Shame Nation: The Global Epidemic of Online Hate (Sourcebooks).

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