Do It For The ‘Gram: The Implications of Social Media for Students

Mark walked down the hall and totally missed the wet spot on the floor… He slipped and fell, right in front of Elya’s class. It was extremely embarrassing because Elya is Mark’s crush. Everyone that saw what happened hysterically laughed. Since it was the end of the school day and he was headed home, all would be forgotten, right? Except, this is the age of social media. As Mark prepared for school the next morning, he was scrolling through his Instagram feed when he noticed an eerily familiar incident, set to a sped-up techno version of Pretty Poison’s “Catch Me I’m Falling.” Mark was humiliated, the likes on this post were in the hundreds, reposts were growing and Elya left “😂😂😂🤣🤣” in the comments. He couldn’t go to school now. The pain and hurt were too deep.

So just imagine your worst day in school, when you were in elementary or middle school. Did you want everyone to see you on that day? Did you want someone to record you and play it back again and again? Did you want to be the punchline to every joke for the next week? For our students, social media is often used, misused to interact with their peers. When relationships or friendships go sour, social media is weaponized for the world to see. Viral memes, gifs, fights, pranks, mean-spirited polls, or confrontational DMs. A social media post/pic or group chat/ DM that is symbolic of a momentary impulse, just joking around or just being in your feelings can result in legal action; virtual posts have real world consequences.

Today’s generation doesn’t fully understand or doesn’t care about the implications of their social media posts.

Even educators and administrators are not immune to the pitfalls of social media. What may be intended as a simple complaint could turn into hurt feelings; even if the complaint or opinion is about something that happened in your own life. There is no way to know who, when, why or how someone will be affected or offended but there are some ways to avoid social media landmines.

  • Curate Carefully: Do not post obscene content; pictures and words that include nudity/semi-nudity and foul language should NEVER be posted or distributed for public consumption. Once it’s out there, anyone can see it which means EVERYONE will see it! By-The-Way: Your friends and followers can see what you “liked” (double-tapped).
  • Don’t feed the trolls: Avoid ongoing debates in the comment section. If you’re debating a co-worker, you could potentially create a hostile, at the bare minimum, awkward work environment. If you’re debating a stranger, things can get really mean-spirited, personal morals and values are usually attacked, etc. Neither is good, so just avoid it or end it immediately (block user then erase comment or post).
  • Avoid Politics and Pulpits: Although we all hold our political views and religious beliefs close to our hearts, you don’t have to share them. Nothing starts an argument faster and with more fury than church and state.
  • Privatize your account: Make your account private. This limits and prevents unknown or unwanted followers’ access to your account. They can’t comment or even see your post if you don’t allow them to follow you. Just remember you never know who your followers know. This means people you do not know, may still be able to see your post if one of your followers “liked” one of your post.

Social Media is considered a gift and a curse. Friendships are formed, job opportunities are sought, and reconnections are made but there are also enemies created, cyberbullies, lawsuits filed and criminal charges for some users. Next time you post to a social media site, “Post Responsibly.”

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