By Lisa S. Lippiello Social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram have repeatedly demonstrated a remarkable ability to connect old friends, family, and like-minded people. For all the positives and strengths that online communities can provide, however, social networks certainly have pitfalls and downsides too.
There are many instances where what you post can have adverse effects, just not in the present, but far into your future. Employers often scour social media entries to screen candidates before hiring. The picture or comment you posted years ago can still be found. Even after being hired, moreover, you are most likely an employee at-will (meaning, you can be dismissed by your employer for any reason as long as the reason is not illegal) and there are ever-increasing stories of employers firing people from their jobs because of social media posts.
Law enforcement is also no stranger to the social media craze. Agents review sites daily to investigate suspects, potential witnesses, and patterns of criminality. Because there is no reasonable expectation of privacy when you willingly post publicly online, these actives are easily subject to scrutiny. Like us, the fields of criminal justice and criminology have evolved exponentially and law enforcement is constantly finding creative ways to put the social networking phenomenon to use.
Lastly, young people should be particularly mindful of their continuous posting on social media forums. College admissions offices typically view applicants’ electronic footprints as personal calling cards, and, resultingly, the hunt for likes, shares, and comments can have unintended, negative consequences.
Social media continues to be a positive tool that can be used to accomplish great things. Social networks foster creativity and are terrific avenues for connecting people around the world. The important thing, however, is to exercise common sense, good judgment, and most importantly restraint, when posting online to avoid potential negative consequences. Have fun, be safe, but be mindful of what information you put out there for all to see.