With contemporary technology, users have the ability to instantly share their emotions, opinions and experiences publicly through social media outlets. While the ability to let any range of people, from a few friends, to your larger social group, to the entire world, know what you’re up to can feel exhilarating, it is also important to be aware of the long-term, real-life consequences that come from what you post on social media.
Brock specifically has seen several unofficial pages and accounts open up across a variety of social media outlets where students send in (or simply post) their comments and pictures to share with the rest of the Brock community. These comments range from complaining about bus schedules, to openly complaining about a professor, to everything in-between. Pictures on these accounts have contained illegal activity (particularly including drugs), intoxicated students, unconscious students, mass consumption of alcohol, and even sometimes nudity and sexual content.
While this kind of social media post may seem “fun” in the moment, a lot of students are unaware of the potential consequences for the future. You may be very proud of the length of your “wizard staff” and feel the need to show it off to everyone you know on social media, but future employers or contacts are often likely to be much less impressed. And it is surprisingly easier than one would expect for employers to get their hands on the things that you share on social media.
Rolling Stone recently published a list of 17 people who were fired from their jobs as a result of controversial tweets, Facebook posts, Instagram photos and other social media posts. Anthony Weiner’s political career was disrupted in 2011 in a high-profile scandal when he resigned from congress because he was caught sending explicit photos to somebody over social media. It has been demonstrated over and over again that one quick decision to share a photo or make a comment can destroy entire careers and professional futures, yet students still often choose to share opinions and pictures that may put them in a position that jeopardizes their futures.
Some departments at Brock are working to educate their students on social media savvy and help them learn how to maintain an online identity that will not compromise their public perception. Students in the Faculty of Education at Brock are generally particularly aware of their social media presence.
“I think that it is much easier to grasp once we enter the university stages of our lives that these dreams that we have has of being at the front lines of the classroom start becoming very real and tangible things for us. I think now that I have completed school placements more than ever before, the monitoring of my own posts, shares, re-blogs, retweets, etc. has become a very unconscious act” said Brock Concurrent Education student Iain Beaumont. “I know that my end goal in the future is to be at the top of the classroom and it’s like I have this unconscious check of myself before I post something and think about the consequences that could be if a future student or an employer were to see a post that reflects negatively on me, as an educator.”
Beaumont emphasized that even seemingly “anonymous” or “temporary” outlets can be harmful, as things on the internet can always be saved or identified. Snapchats can be screenshot, anonymous posts can be tracked, and private posts can be photographed and made public.
“With the way things travel so quickly through the social media wildfire, even the “safer” platforms; Snapchat, Yik-Yak, etc. have the potential to leave a blip on your online life within a split second of making a bad choice” said Beaumont. “Personally, having an unconscious editor on my shoulder who is looking out for my future in the present is a blessing…it keeps me more social media intelligent, and paves the way for a socially risk-free career as an educator.
As more stories come to light about people’s careers being compromised because of social media choices, it becomes increasingly important for students to monitor what they share.