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With all due respect: Log in to Humiliation

Every Issue

Cite as: December 2015 89 (12) LIJ, p.98

The list of social media traps is endless.

We all know the internet is a scary place. And if you don’t, then you haven’t been paying attention.

It’s a jungle out there in cyberspace with a potential threat at every click or keystroke, particularly for those who are addicted to social media.

To the uninitiated, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter might seem like innocent, even friendly, names for social media sites, but for the unwary a more accurate description would be Humiliation, Embarrassment, Shame and Mortified.

There is a theory that social media has dumbed down humanity but my view is that the human race hasn’t become less intelligent. It’s just that social media gives people the opportunity to display their stupidity in all its glory and often to the whole world.

At one time if you committed a social faux-pas it might have caused embarrassment in your family, immediate social circle or, if it was particularly egregious, your local community.

Worldwide there are 1.8 billion people using social media. The most likely to trip up are those who can’t resist revealing every detail of their love lives, their shopping or restaurant experiences, comments about their boss, what they watched on TV last night or their latest outfit. The more you post or tweet and plaster your social media with “selfies”, the bigger the likelihood of a social media fail. Young lawyers and other professionals are often warned to be aware of what potential employers may dig up from applicants’ social media history.

The list of traps is endless and every day we seem to hear a new story of how social media has ruined someone’s life.

How about this example of an embarrassing Twitter exchange?

“Just popping in a DVD. I’m such a movie buff!” Reply: “Hey, are you excited about the Oscars?” “What’s the Oscars?” Or the person who posted on Twitter that they had found a mobile phone from the 1990s and couldn’t understand why it had the symbol “#” when social media hadn’t been invented.

And it’s not just ordinary people who make fools of themselves on social media.

From footballers who post video of themselves snorting a white powder on Snapchat to pop stars making bad jokes about natural disasters.

You could argue that big celebrities with their entourages and personal assistants have fewer excuses than ordinary mortals. Oprah Winfrey tweeted to her legion of fans that she loved the Microsoft Surface Pro tablet and had bought 12 as Christmas gifts. From her iPad.

Model Naomi Campbell tweeted her congratulations to “Malaria” for winning the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize. She meant Malala Yousafzai.

Companies are not immune. American Apparel celebrated 4 July last year on its Tumblr account with a picture of the Challenger space shuttle disaster with the addition of the hashtags #smoke and #clouds. The apologies were profuse but the damage had been done.

When the US defeated Ghana 2-1 at the 2014 Soccer World Cup, Delta Airlines tweeted a picture of the number “2” superimposed over the statue of liberty and “1” over a giraffe. There are no giraffes in Ghana.

One of the worst social media fails can occur when you are attempting to lecture or cajole. The British National Party tweeted that people should observe a minute’s silence on Remembrance Day. The tweet read “Others may forget but we remember”. It was posted on 12 November, one day late.

Do you ever come across amusing incidents related to the law?
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