Five Social Media Posting Disasters
When things go wrong on social media, they can go really wrong.
Social media is among the most important inventions of all time, right up there with the automobile and the printing press. Don’t believe us? Try giving up Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram for a couple days and see what happens. You won’t just lose your connection to friends and family. You’ll lose your connection to the world.
Like every great invention, social media has its downsides. For one thing, it’s incredibly public. It’s one thing to whisper over the phone that you don’t like someone, the way people did back in the ’90s. It’s another to share that dislike with everyone you know all at once, the way many people do on social media. Add to that the fact that what you say on social media stays up forever, and you have a recipe for potential disaster. We can prove it: We have five examples of times a social media post came back to haunt the poster. And, as a bonus, we’ll offer a few suggestions for how to avoid making the same mistakes yourself.
Five Times a Social Media Post Went Very Wrong
Whether you’re posting to Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook, there are lots of ways a social media post can wind up haunting you. Sometimes you can even get in trouble through no fault of your own. Below we offer five case studies, each one an example of a different way things can go wrong.
FYI: According to Search Engine Journal, Facebook has more users than any other social media site, with 2.9 billion. That’s 400 million more than its nearest competitor, YouTube.1
That’s Not Funny
Social media has turned us all into wannabe stand-up comedians. Come up with the perfect one-liner response to another person’s post or create the perfect meme, and internet fame awaits. Comedy is subjective, though, and your joke could strike other people as offensive.
Even the professionals can get it wrong. Gilbert Gottfried, a legendary comic, found that out in 2011, when he put out a series of tasteless tweets after Japan suffered a devastating earthquake and tsunami. “Japan is really advanced,” one read, “They don’t go to the beach. The beach comes to them.” We’re not sure whether Gottfried didn’t realize over 3,000 people died as a result of the earthquake and tsunami or if he was going for shock value and overshot the mark. Whatever the reason, the tweets not only resulted in social media backlash but also lost Gottfried work as well. Most notably, he was fired as the voice of the Aflac duck.
The lesson here? Comedy can be dangerous. Think carefully about how your jokes may land.
Don’t Drink and Post
We all know the dangers of drunk dialing. It’s wrecked many a relationship. Drunk posting can have far more serious repercussions, as Mike Bacsik discovered. Bacsik, a former major league pitcher, was working as a producer with Dallas radio station KTCK. After watching a 2010 NBA playoff game between the Dallas Mavericks and San Antonio Spurs, he put out an unsavory tweet about “Mexicans” in San Antonio. The next day he was apologetic and pleaded that he was drunk at the time he posted. KTCK wasn’t sympathetic, and ultimately Bacsik lost his job.
Remember that social media is not a toy, and, just like operating heavy machinery, it can be dangerous when you’re inebriated.
Social Media Is Forever
Social media posts never go away, as many celebrities have discovered in the past several years. Take Camila Cabello for instance. The singer was held accountable in 2019 for a Tumblr account she operated when she was just 15. The account was full of offensive images and text she’d reposted from other websites. Other celebrities have been burned by behavior from their recent past as well, including Kevin Hart, who was uninvited to host the Oscars after Twitter users discovered a series of homophobic tweets the comedian had written about his son. The tweets were 10 years old and Hart claimed he had evolved as a person since he’d written them, but the damage was done.
Lesson: Anything you say online can come back to haunt you. Want to make sure your kids aren’t posting things they’ll regret later? Check out our guide to protecting your kids online.
Check and Double-Check Before You Post
Not every unfortunate social media post becomes a disaster on the level of losing a job or upsetting millions of fans. Sometimes you just look dumb. Mary J. Blige took to the internet to defend her own intelligence, but the move backfired in a big way when she wound up wrecking the word “underestimate” and misspelling “intelligence.”
“Why is it that people always try to understand estimate my intelligents?” the singer wrote.
She followed that up with an apology for her “miss spelling.”
Of course, Mary J. Blige is just a celebrity. When the U.S. Department of Education made similar mistakes on social media, they seemed to undermine the agency’s very mission. Not only did the department misspell W.E.B. Du Bois’ name in a tweet, but they also followed it up with a tweet that read, “Our deepest apologizes.”
The lesson here is that you need to check and recheck everything you post. That includes making sure autocorrect hasn’t altered anything before you press send.
I Didn’t Do It
One of the scariest prospects with social media is that your account will be hacked. Hacking can lead to enormous problems, not the least of which is losing control of your device or even your identity. In recent years, hacking has also led to some rather embarrassing social media posts. And, it turns out, we’re all vulnerable.
In 2017, the McDonald’s Twitter account posted a response to a picture of Donald Trump enjoying some McDonald’s food that was making the rounds on social media. Among other things, the tweet referred to Trump as a “disgusting president.” As you might expect, outrage ensued.
Turns out, McDonald’s was the victim of a hacking scheme and the tweet was 100 percent bogus. The incident goes to show, though, that anyone’s social media can be hacked at any time.
Pro Tip: Worried your social media may have been hacked? A subscription to one of our best identity theft protection services can help the situation from escalating.
Protect Yourself From Social Media Embarrassment
Now that you’ve seen what can happen, how do you make sure you don’t wind up looking foolish on social media?
Think Before You Post
It’s not easy to consider every possible way a social media post could be taken before you post it, but you want to consider as many as you can. One good strategy is to imagine all the ways what you’re about to say could potentially be used against you. If you aren’t sure whether something is funny or if it could be misunderstood, just don’t post it.
Thinking before you post isn’t enough. Once you’ve thought through what you want to say, make absolutely certain you’ve said it the way you want to. We all know what havoc autocorrect can wreak on a text. Typos and misspellings can cause big problems too. Read it. Read it again. And only then post it.
Invest in Security
Online security products can’t keep you from making a dumb mistake, but they can keep hackers and identity thieves out of your social media accounts. A strong VPN offers an encrypted tunnel to the internet, so there’s no possibility of anyone gaining access to your credentials. A top-tier antivirus ensures no one can take over your devices through malware. Use multifactor identification if it’s offered. And, of course, keeping yourself safe sometimes is as simple as using strong passwords and making sure no one knows them.
Admit to Mistakes When You Make Them
If the worst happens and you post something you later wish you could take back, don’t be afraid to admit your mistake. You may not convince everyone to forgive you, but it’ll go a long way toward demonstrating that you know how to use social media appropriately.
What Have We Learned?
We’ve learned a few ways social media posts can go off the rails. We’ve learned a few tips and tricks for how to avoid making mistakes with social media. Most of all, though, we’ve learned that posting on social media is always a dicey proposition. Is the reward worth the risk? Only you can decide that. As always, here’s what we can say: Whatever you’re doing online, do it as safely and securely as possible.
Statista. (2022, Jan). Most popular social networks worldwide as of January 2022, ranked by number of monthly active users.