Most people enjoy it, some people are addicted to it and for some people it can get them into a lot of trouble. I, being of a traditional mindset, am one of the few who believe in NOT having it. I’m talking about social media, of course! I view social media like a big night out: it may have been fun and games in the beginning, but it always ends up in a headache…
I have engaged with most social media platforms at some stage or another, but they never quite did it for me. Facebook seemed like a way for other people keep an eye on me. I didn’t do anything interesting enough to justify an Instagram account and I just didn’t get the point of Twitter. Now, I do have LinkedIn, but seeing as it doesn’t involve posting holiday snaps or getting tangled in heated cyber discussions with your friend’s auntie’s boyfriend, it doesn’t really count.
Social media is undoubtedly a fantastic tool to keep in touch with childhood friends or to share pictures with family members living afar. However, it seems strange that some use it to air their dirty laundry, post pictures of their three meals a day, or to voice their inappropriate views.
Social media has evolved, and the trends have changed, but the premise remains the same – you can say pretty much whatever you want to a potentially global audience. Comments, posts and hashtags ‘go viral’ and before you can say ‘Instagram filter’ your opinions are being judged by a lot more than your 170 Facebook friends.
And now the social media user’s greatest enemy is the screen grab. You can guarantee that no matter how swiftly you deleted something, if you have said something controversial, racist, homophobic or just downright ridiculous, someone out there will have a permanent record of it. And in this hyper-sensitive world, it is taking increasingly less for anyone, anywhere to be outraged about one’s social media content.
This year’s ‘I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here’ was immediately in the headlines for a lot more than gruesome trials and female campmates in bikinis. Jack Maynard, a YouTube star, exited the show after just three days due to social media controversy. Resurfaced tweets from 2011 showed Jack using homophobic and racist language, when he was simply an unknown teenager.
Despite the fact that his spokesperson immediately issued an apology and Jack himself has delivered a lengthy expression of regret, it has irreversibly damaged his image and personal brand. He is set to lose out on £20,000 a month through endorsements and his social media following has taken a dramatic dip in the recent weeks too.
On a more worrying note, President Trump is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to social media controversy. His Twitter account could be the cause of nuclear war before long. With power comes great responsibility, something the leader of the free world should be given a lesson on, before re-tweeting far-right videos and indulging in playground name-calling with eccentric, but nuclear-equipped, dictators.
Organisations, celebrities and politicians are among the many who spend time and money working with the right people to ensure they maintain the best possible public reputation. Public Relations practitioners shed blood, sweat and tears to manage someone’s standing and yet they allow them to have social media, which has the power to undo all their work, instantaneously.
I am relieved that I don’t know anyone as controversial as Trump and I don’t bank on seeing any of my peers on Love Island or I’m a Celebrity anytime soon. However, I, along with my classmates, am in the process of looking for graduate jobs and my increasing knowledge of PR would suggest we all need to think before we type. Our social media posts may not be splashed over the front page of ‘The Sun’ but they could be on a potential employer’s radar, with proportionality damaging results.
As soon-to-be graduates, our own reputation is one of our greatest assets and we need to manage it carefully. So when it comes to social media; learn from the mistakes of others, take notice of the principles of PR, and most of all, mind your Ps and Qs.
Jenny Craig is a 4th Year BSc in Communications, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be contacted via LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/jenny-craig-7a85b1113