Ah, the good ol' Internet. You think it's just one big, anonymous playground. You can do anything. Well, it's a playground alright. And you can do almost anything online nowadays, but it's definitely not anonymous. Everyone needs to be mindful of what they write, post and share online. You don't know who's going to see it or what tiny detail in that Instagram photo or post on Facebook can give away your identity or location.
However, you should also be mindful not to do blatantly stupid things and post about them on the Internet. Something's bound to happen. Let me share with you a couple recent stories that illustrate this latter fact:
This story starts out gross and ends with a swift kick of justice. A few days ago, a person posted a picture on the notorious image-sharing bulletin-board website "4chan" depicting a person standing on top of two buckets of lettuce. The caption of the picture said, "This is the lettuce you eat at Burger King."
OK, that is extremely gross. Someone should do something, right? 4chan and other sites like this claim to allow users to be anonymous. So, is there no way bring justice to Mr. Lettuce Stomper? Turns out, yep.
Unbeknownst to the Burger King employee who posted the photo, the image file contained embedded GPS data, presumably from his or her camera phone. It took other users on the website all of 15 minutes to find the employee's location, the restaurant's address and contact management and the local news channel. Burger King has fired three employees related to this incident.
Complaining Chili's Waitress
About a month ago, a story came out about a Chili's waitress, who after getting stiffed pretty harshly on a tip, decided to vent her anger on Facebook. Already, we're treading into risky territory here. Next stop for our waitress, "Poor Choices Town" apparently. She finished off her rant by threatening to spit in this customer's food and face should he or she choose to return.
Oh man, bad choice there. Not only is it gross, and against company policy to spit in food, but since this waitress worked in California, spitting in someone's face is considered assault.
Well, our good friends on the Internet caught wind of this Facebook posting, and allegedly were quickly able to glean information from her Facebook page, find her location, find the Chili's restaurant where she worked and contact the management. A computer screenshot image of an email response claiming to be from Chili's described how the waitress was "no longer with the company."
There have been reports that complaints made by Internet users were simply fake screenshots. However, reports do say that Chili's management did fire a waitress for violating the company's social media guidelines.
Moral of the story
There's two really:
• Don't be gross and stupid.
• Watch what you post online.
The first moral here is preatty self explanatory. The second one might not be so well understood.
The Internet is pretty open, and the things you post and share on social media websites may not, and are probably not, as private as you may think. Ignoring this could have severe consequences. Nowadays, more and more employers are using social media websites as another metric to evaluate potential employees. Think that picture of you doing a keg-stand at the frat party last weekend is pretty hilarious? Do you think your potential boss (or current boss) thinks the same thing? I doubt it.
And this doesn't just affect young job-seekers. Are you a high school senior getting ready to apply to college? The admissions officers may just factor in your Facebook page in their decision whether or not to admit you. In a Wall-Street Journal story, 38 percent of admission officers who check social media sites of applicants said that their views of potential students were "negatively affected" by what they saw.
Even your current employment could be jeopardized by what you post online and on social media websites, as we've seen in the above two examples. The Internet and its collective users can be pretty fickle. Do something inappropriate, mean, or just plain stupid online, and you may find yourself on the wrong end of some Internet justice.
William Brawley is the Electronic Media Producer for The Covington News. If you have any tech issues or other questions email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.