Social Media Responsibility: To whom much is given, much is required …

“Founded in 2004, Facebook’s mission is to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected. People use Facebook to stay connected with friends and family, to discover what’s going on in the world, and to share and express what matters to them.”

What “matters” to us? Petty subterfuge? Relationship drama? Ridicule? Condescension? Casual Sex? These themes are five all too common messages posted on the world’s largest and most popular social network. What does that say about the society we live in? Is this really the best we have to offer?

In the third quarter of 2016, Facebook had 1.71 billion monthly active users. There are 7.5 billion people on earth, 60% of whom do not have internet access. According to Internet Live Stats, as of September 30, 2016, the number of actual internet users was 3,467,413,500. If you do the math, that means Facebook is reaching 50% of the world’s internet using population. The topics above are just a small sample of what those 3.5 billion people are seeing. 

Thoughtless Posting comes with a Price

Eliminate the politics, hate-mongering, soft-core porn, and intolerance; Facebook becomes a fairly pleasant place to spend time. I am a user myself and my WordPress analytics tell me that many of my readers first found this blog when they read a post on my Facebook wall.

As a content marketing professional, I’ve learned the importance of “reputation management” through selective posting, not just on Facebook, but on other social networks as well. For business owners and executives, this “editorial” approach to social media is critical to attaining a good professional reputation. You may not think folks are looking at your personal pages, but they are. Those “funny memes” or “political statements” could be the turn-offs that cause prospects to go to your competitors

Job and business opportunities have been lost over one seemingly meaningless or irresponsible picture or post on social media. Look at the case of Laremy Tunsil, a top college football prospect projected to be selected in the top five at the NFL Draft this year. Laremy claims he was “hacked” when a video of him wearing a gas mask, smoking a bong, appeared on Twitter, but the reality is that he actually shot the video and then was careless with his user name and password. The faux pas cost him millions.

Changing Public Perception with Quality Content

Americans and citizens of other free countries around the world have been given total freedom to post whatever they want on social media. There is no editorial process, so the onus of responsibility is on the party generating the content. What you choose to publish is permanent. Once online, it will stay online. Think about that for a moment before you hit “enter”. What’s appropriate or humorous today may affect you years down the road. Your job, your education, or a future relationship could be on the line.

Distributing quality content will help to shape others’ opinion of you and your company. Putting a positive “spin” on what you post will contribute to the betterment of society as a whole. Social media affects social behavior. Businesses and politicians use this to their advantage. You as an individual can use this “power” to: a) aid in promoting positive thinking and responsibility for our own actions; or b) encourage bad behavior, hate, indifference, and negativity. Which do you prefer?

Think about what you have to say, then say to to everyone …

If you put some thought into what you publish, repost your Facebook content to other social media sites. This site is a WordPress website which comes with automated connectivity to Facebook (1.71 billion users), LinkedIn (450 million users) and Twitter (313 million users). Personally, I have roughly 5000 friends and followers between the three sites, all of whom can see (and re-post) this article when I publish it.

For additional exposure, I also publish on StumbleUpon (57 million users), Pinterest (110 million users), and Tumblr (227 million users). My friend counts are not as high on these networks, but every post can be re-posted, giving me a total potential reach that numbers in the millions. Are you confident enough in your content to do that? Does the world really need to hear your relationship issues, petty complaints, or baby mama drama? Please keep those inside the private chat features where they belong.

Freedom and Responsibility are Not Exclusive to Each Other

The First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States reads, “Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.” The Bible says in Luke 12:36 that “much will be required of the person to whom much is given.” Social media is the purest expression of free speech we currently have available to us, but that freedom comes with responsibility.

In January 2011, hundreds of thousands of pro-democratic Arabs gathered in Tahrir Square in Cairo to protest for change from the policies of President Hosni Mubarak, who had been in power for thirty years. He was ousted as a result of this event, which was part of a movement known as “Arab Spring.” The protest was organized and coordinated with Facebook posts and Twitter tweets.

Used properly, social networks can be powerful tools for social change and successful commerce. This power can also be used to spread negativity and violence, a function that ISIS recognized early on, prompting them to adopt social media as a recruitment tool. Do we fight their efforts by restricting access to Arabs? If we did that back in 2011, the Arab Spring movement never would have happened.

With great power comes great responsibility. It is up to us, as individuals, to exercise that responsibility and make better choices when posting online. Some of what you have read here may seem extreme to you, but change starts with one person standing by their principles and carrying a positive message. Think before you post. Even the smallest pebble can cause a thousand ripples …

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