Understanding the 'social' dangers of social media

By Adela Talbot
February 06, 2014

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SOCIAL_mediaSpecial to Western News

Social media provides an outlet for any and every thought, on any given day – your daily itinerary update, a menu item appraisal, even a groan over heavy traffic. But not all thoughts need to be expressed to the world.

Take DJ PU$$ PU$$, for one example.

‘this ivey application makes me want to projectile vomit into the head of admission’s mouth’

The above was tweeted by a prospective student prior to Ivey Business School’s Advanced Entry Opportunity (AEO) application deadline. Ivey’s social media team quickly flagged the tweet and responded – simply and beautifully:

‘Duly noted.’

The original tweet went viral, after which the student’s account became private, and soon after, defunct. Despite efforts to reach out to her through various social media platforms, she has become – uncharacteristically – silent on the issue.

Somewhere in here, there’s a lesson.

Just ask Ivey and Western’s communications folks.

“I think the background behind how we ended up where we are (with the tweet) is pretty funny,” said Molly McCracken, Ivey’s communications specialist. “The reason it was even flagged was not because of any sort of ‘Big Brother’ student-tracking system. I was looking to see if students were having technical challenges with the application, so we could tweet them to help them out. We didn’t expect the viral reaction it got.

“The (applicant) actually retweeted the response, and that’s the reason it got so much attention, because all of her friends retweeted it as well. She thought, ‘Oh, Ivey noticed me – this is funny,’ and didn’t think any further than that.”

But the issue at heart goes beyond a viral tweet, added Sunali Swaminathan, manager of Ivey’s HBA Recruiting, who sent out the ‘Duly noted.’ tweet.

“This student is by no means the only student to have said something inappropriate on social media. As for why I responded, it was to make her aware of the fact we saw it and to make her think about what she tweets. 'Duly noted' sufficed in getting that message across, there was not much else that needed to be said,” she explained.

“At the end of the day, there is freedom of speech. But students need to consider whether what they say is consistent with the reputation they want to build. This is a group that has grown up with the Internet and social media, so they are less likely to think about some of the consequences of their actions; they let their guard down where social media is concerned.”

Following ‘Duly noted’, students have been tweeting about cleaning up their Twitter profile, she added.

“Social media is not about being prim and proper. We had plenty of students that complained about the length of the application or how they were nervous; venting is fine. They just need to pay attention to how they say it. By rule, if you are not comfortable having what you said show up on the front page of a newspaper, you should probably not say it, or at least think about it first,” Swaminathan continued.

McCracken agreed, adding the perils of the online world are as plentiful as its faux pas.

“Social media is not presently educated well, and many parents are not familiar with how public their kids’ online activities are. I do think it’s important for students to realize that everything they do on the Internet sticks,” she said.

“Making one’s account private doesn’t always work either, unfortunately. Whenever something is online, someone can take a screenshot or save the image quite easily, so it’s always a risk. I’m just hopeful that potential students will keep in mind that the places they hope to work and go to school are using social media as much as they are.”

In the case of DJ PU$$ PU$$, it’s hard to tell if the individual walked away from this experience having learned something valuable about the online world.

“The original tweet was deleted and the account was made private, which to me, says there isn’t an intention to be selective about what’s posted,” said Melissa Cheater, digital content manager for Communications and Public Affairs at Western.

“My hope with something like this would be for people to understand that social media is public, and that only content that is public-safe should be posted. The ‘social’ part of social media doesn’t mean we are in a personal or private space – it is absolutely a public space that includes friends, family, employers, government, law enforcement – everyone,” she explained.


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