Social media has been with us since at least 2004, but users have learnt the hard way that thoughtless posting can lead to long term regret.
South Africans may have the right to “fair comment” but reckless posting on social media may put you in an awkward legal position.
A Pew Centre 2015 report found that in the US, 72% of online adults use Facebook, with 70% of those classified as “highly engaged” because they log on daily.
The growth of social media implies that subscribers should exercise more care when posting – this is especially true for companies running Facebook pages as they can expose themselves to serious liabilities from reckless posting.
Here is a four step survival guide for social media safety:
“It wouldn’t be social media if it was private. You are not alone. Everyone is listening,” said Dylan Kohlstädt chief executive of Shift ONE Marketing Agency.
She advised that you should never post when you are tired, intoxicated, angry or upset.
In SA, Matthew Theunissen’s rant against Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula went viral, sparking discussion on social media about the racist tone of the post.
Kohlstädt said that companies and individuals should focus on postings that are funny, informative and relevant to people other than the poster.
“If it’s none of these, then find another platform to share your views on, like a blog or a newsletter, or better yet, bounce it off a good friend over coffee before publicising your opinion,” she added.
The internet never forgets and offensive postings on social media can have long lasting consequences.
In the UK, 26-year-old Jamie Milligan threatened rape on his Facebook page but when he was subsequently arrested, he claimed to “not be the type of person” who would commit rape.
Canadian researchers Erin E Buckelsa, Paul D Trapnellb and Delroy L Paulhusc suggest that trolling behaviour is related to a sadistic personality though the traits may not be visible in the offline environment.
“What you post is placed on the internet and can remain there indefinitely. This collection of posts is what pops up when I Google your name,” said Kohlstädt.
“Your hard-earned ‘likes’ and followers are people who have shown interest in your brand or what you have to say,” Kohlstädt said.
“They are not your besties and they definitely don’t want to hear your tantrums about culture or politics,” she added.
Posting about politics might also get you fired, especially your views differ from that of your employer.
“Political views depend on context and nature of employer’s business. But the employer might legitimately be allowed to dismiss the employee for saying them,” technology attorney Russel Luck told Fin24 recently.