Dear students, what you post can wreck your life

by Violet Koh

In an age of big data where everything we upload is being captured, watched and circulated, functions like ‘delete’ and ‘remove’ have become obsolete. Before you decide the tweet you sent was socially unacceptable and opt to take it down, it has already been screen captured and disseminated to your friends, your friends’ friends, and your friends’ friends’ friends. All it takes is for one uncivil comment to go viral and your credibility gets thrown out the window – regardless of all the good you’ve done in the world. Gone are the days of making a mistake, seeking forgiveness and starting afresh, gone are the days of second chances.

So why do people continue to put themselves in a vulnerable position, subjected to scrutiny under the public eye? Is self-validation and instant gratification really worth it? Or is it simply that they don’t draw the connection between uploading something on the net as the equivalent of standing in the first floor of Cineleisure and shouting whatever it is they have typed (oh, with the addition of shoppers videoing your outburst and Stomping it). Sure, social media is enticing, but do you know where to draw the line?

Earlier this month, we saw Harvard University withdraw 10 student acceptances due to offensive memes shared in a Facebook messaging group which, at one point was named “Harvard memes for horny bourgeois teens”. The memes and images shared were said to be “mocking sexual assault, the Holocaust and the deaths of children”.

Consequences in Singapore

In 2012, a NUS scholar from China by the name of Sun Xu posted insensitive comments on his microblog. He was fined $3,000, had to complete three months of community service, and had his remaining undergraduate scholarship benefits terminated.

In the same year, Chinese national Wang Peng Fei was expelled from East Asia Institute of Management after creating a video mocking Singapore. In the video, he made racist remarks against minority groups and mentioned other topics like Singaporean women

Forget university scandals, inappropriate posts could also take a toll on your career. We remember Amy Cheong, Assistant Director of NTUC that was fired after posting racist comments on Facebook:

And don’t forget Anton Casey, who ‘parted ways’ with Crossinvest Asia after his Facebook posts about Singapore’s public transport and taxi drivers went viral:

How is your future affected?

Such consequences extend beyond employees, to everyone and especially to job seekers. In a survey by JobsCentral, they found that three in four employers in Singapore use online platforms to snoop on job candidates.

According to CareerBuilder’s 2017 social media recruitment survey, social media screening is through the roof:

  • 600% increase since 2006 in employers using social media to screen
  • 70% of employers use social networking sites to research job candidates
  • 34% of employers found online content that caused them to reprimand or fire an employee

It doesn’t just affect your job – it can also affect your acceptance into colleges.

Human resource departments are more attentive to a candidate’s netiquette than ever and media activities such as bad-mouthing a previous company or fellow employee, posting inappropriate photographs or information, and any evidence of lying during the job interview deter them from hiring candidates. So bear in mind to clean up your social media profiles before job hunting and be truthful – they may know you are lying!

The next time you want to post something, think about how you’d react as a third party. I mean if one can spend 3 hours (or more) on the internet daily, then one can definitely spare a few minutes. What do you know, those moments may just save you from committing social suicide. You know, because Singaporeans love a good public shaming. Seriously, self-validation is not worth the risk.