“When the, streets is watching Blocks keep clocking Waiting for you to break, make your first mistake…” – Jay Z
Those infamous lyrics apply now, more than ever. Yet, the glaring social media acts of others continue to amaze. Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram (just to name a few), grant us an immediate connection with the world. Our own, readily available soapbox to project (type) our voice (words), for the world to hear (read). When used properly they are amazing tools; a means to share opinions on current events and personal experiences. But, it all comes at a great price – a gift and a curse, if you will.
As the old adage goes, “to whom much is given much is required.” Convenient access to social mediums eliminate the filtering process that would naturally occur when publicizing one’s feelings. It is thus important to not allow the relaxed forum to delude you. You are still responsible for your thoughts and actions, arguably to a higher degree once those thoughts are posted and available for anyone to derive or attach their own meaning.
Every week in the news, we are confronted with a controversial post made by someone on social media. Often, followed with regret and attempts to redact or delete; but unfortunately, once posted, the damage is already done. Recently, it was Richard Incognito of the Miami Dolphins who could not help himself.
Afterwards, water cooler conversations promptly begin questioning how the offender could be so reckless (my mother taught me to never call anyone dumb, so I will refrain). From the outside looking in, it is always a terrible idea, so why do we continue to see these same mistakes? The examples are endless, Teenager threatens to shoot up school on twitter arrested, drug dealers use Instagram to distribute. The story repeats itself so often that I have concluded it can happen to anyone. I am convinced a social media troll exist, hijacking minds, perusing accounts, and wrecking havoc… No, but seriously, these transgressions have to be addressed.
Going one step further, an individual’s social media profile is often where civil and criminal investigations begin today. These accounts possess an abundance of information; one’s interests, whereabouts, inner-thoughts, perspective, and future plans. Tools such as BrightPlanet’s, BlueJay Law Enforcement Twitter Crime Scanner allow police departments to conduct pre-crime searches on Twitter. Invasive? Maybe, but the rationale is the fact that it helps to prevent future acts of crime. Yes, our very own “Minority Report.” A very slippery slope indeed, but only the future knows where it will lead us.
As an attorney it is imperative that you not only represent yourself well on social networks, but also educate your client. Many individuals consider their account to be secure simply because they mark it private, requiring others to request to view their profile for access first. While this may be quite true, do you know every follower that you accept? Are you sure that long time friend that you accepted is really him or her?
For now, If you are an active ‘social networker’ it is important to take your post seriously. Expect the world to have access to your post, forever! Consequently, post only those things that you are comfortable with anyone seeing. Taking into consideration that your feelings about any given topic may not always be as flagrant as they are now. The post or tweet should be something that with reasonable deference you are OK with 20 years from now. After all, how are you going to feel when your child accuses you of hypocrisy and presents you with your own tweet, after you tell him or her that they cannot do something that, “you tweeted?” 😦
Not long after completing this piece, I discovered that the Delaware Supreme Court recently ruled on the admissibility of Facebook and social-media evidence. This article written by Molly DiBianca, highlights the importance of social media-evidence and its evolution. See, Delaware Supreme Court Rules On Admissibility of Facebook Evidence