Earlier this week, I read a story about a Michigan woman who lost her job for wearing a Halloween costume. She made the mistake of taking photos of herself dressed as a Boston Marathon bombing victim at an office party and posting them online.
The photos set the social media world on fire and the woman was highly criticized for her behavior and choice of costume. While I think she didn’t mean any disrespect and was simply following the tradition of macabre costumes for Halloween, she picked the wrong theme to use and definitely paid the price for it by losing her job as the result of her bad judgement. But I give some credit to her; she did apologize to the public via Twitter and is defending her family against the zealots harassing them.
Thanks to social media, we’re more accountable than we ever were before. It used to be that if you had a problem with a business, you’d talk about it over the phone, send a letter or e-mail someone. But now it can be a Facebook post or a Twitter tweet, too.
Someone I met recently says that if he has a legitimate gripe with a company’s product or service, he now complains about it via Twitter because he knows that the company will have to pay attention. Otherwise, they’ll make themselves look bad by their failure to respond in a timely manner.
Social media is holding businesses accountable for their image and behavior, but it’s creeping over into private lives too. With the popularity of Instagram, Vine, Twitter and Facebook, sometimes I wonder if I’m going to end up as the unwitting star in someone’s image or video if I take a pratfall in public. Odds are slim (Whew!), but it often feels like I should be camera-ready as soon as I leave my home.
California just passed a law that forbids people from publishing intimate photos to the Internet as a form of revenge after a relationship breaks up. I wish more states would adopt this law to add to the anti-harassment policies of Twitter and other social media sites. And I wouldn’t be surprised if someone eventually sues (or maybe they did already?) for posting any kind of their image on social media without permission. Where does freedom of speech end and privacy begin?
I don’t believe that social media should ever be used as a means of hurting others when there are so many better uses for it. We’ve got the potential to create some amazing and powerful experiences on social media to entertain people, educate them and make them feel better about themselves; why shouldn’t we do more of that?
Caine Monroy of Caine’s Arcade in LA is a perfect example. Through the power of social media, a wise filmmaker brought happiness to Caine and made a difference to this kid’s homemade arcade and his life. (Watch the video; I know it’s long, but worth it.)