On Social Media, You Don’t Get a Mulligan

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© 2013 Shelly ʕ•ᴥ•ʔ . Licensed under CC-BY.

I just wandered onto Twitter and saw a video of a woman beating and spitting at her dog. No, it wasn’t an eyewitness shooting the video. The woman was shooting her own video, talking to the camera as she tried to pull a joke on her dog.

The Twitter post wasn’t from her account — it was shared by a Twitter user with more than 15,000 followers. His post, after five hours, had more than 1,500 retweets. I navigated to her own Twitter account to see that not only had she deleted the video, but she also posted an apology for her behavior.

On social media, you don’t get a Mulligan. If someone finds your post shocking or controversial, it will be saved, shared, and spread. You’re not the only one looking for likes and shares.

Years ago, to create a video for online public view, it required a camera, editing software, and high speed internet. Note the requirement in the middle — editing software. This means that as excited we might have been to share a video, it took some time. During that time we might have asked, “Is this wise?”

Now that sharing a video (or any picture or post) can occur in a matter of a few seconds, we’re probably thinking more about the clever text or hashtags than the potential consequences. We can’t wait to hit “send.”

I myself have often posted or replied to something and regretted it later. Thankfully, I’m no one of consequence and no one took a screenshot of my post. Sometimes we can quickly hit “delete” without any harm.

On the other hand, we might be someone with a lot of followers, and our desire for more increases the immediacy of our posts. We get excited, hoping that THIS post will get a ton of likes and maybe someone famous will like and share, and you can finally get that TV talk show you’ve always wanted. Nope. Maybe not this post.

So then we up the ante. We look at our stats. What was it about that one post that people interacted with the most? We try harder, and maybe we do or say something out of passion or out of excitement. Our emotions take over, which trumps our rational, thinking mind. We boldly share.

Then we maybe go the gym and forget about our post. We find our phone an hour or two later, but now it’s rife with notifications and messages from our friends and family. People we don’t know are demanding for us to be fired. We’re finally trending, but not in a good way.

We could delete our social media account, but now the damage has been done. We can’t simply erase things and get a do-over when it comes to social media.

We must take into account how our behavior might be perceived. We must ask ourselves how the words we have chosen might be misconstrued. We must consider the consequences of our actions.

We must…think.

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