Learning from social media mishaps

Erin Zaranec

Like most college students, I am pretty active on Twitter. I am guilty of sending out a tweet or two during times of frustration or anger. But I never truly realized the impact those tweets could have in the long run.

In my first semester at Kent, I was beyond frustrated with a professor of mine. I hated the course, hated the teaching style, hated, well, just about everything about that lecture. One day, I released my frustration to all of my followers on Twitter.

My Twitter is public, which I am completely comfortable with because I never thought twice about my professor seeing my tweet.

The next week, though, I was in for a surprise.

“Today’s lesson is about social media, which I noticed some of you guys apparently need a big lesson about after reading through your Twitter pages,” my professor said.

My heart dropped, but then I felt reassured that there was no way he reviewed every single student’s Twitter just to teach us a lesson. Anyway, I’m at the bottom of his roster so I was sure there was no way he had checked mine.

Boy, was I wrong.

My professor made mentions of tweets directly about him, his course and about other professors. We were then all subjected to a lecture about social media and the harm in using it in an unprofessional manner.

Does this really matter though? After looking at verified companies’ Twitter accounts, the answer is without a doubt yes.

Take US Airways, for example. Just last week, the company’s account replied to a customer complain with a pornographic picture. Of course the company claimed the Twitter account was hacked at the time of the tweet, but that didn’t stop it from making headlines.

Or look at the 14-year-old Dutch girl who tweeted a terrorist threat to American Airlines, claiming she was part of al-Qaida and that she was going to “do something really big” on June 1. American Airlines promptly responded to her tweet and informed her that her IP address was being sent to the FBI. According to irishexaminer.com and multiple other news sites, Dutch authorities arrested her the next day.

While these are extreme examples, even I have learned a thing or two about social media. Who would have thought that something as harmless as tweeting about a professor would have caused me embarrassment the very next week?

Moral of the story: Even though we hear it all of the time, keep in mind that Twitter is a public forum and typing just a few wrong words can cause you trouble or embarrassment.

Contact Erin Zaranec at [email protected].