Think Twice Before Posting Those Favorite Vacation Photos

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Instagram has 150 million users. Twitter, about 250 million. And then there’s Facebook, with over 1 billion active users each month. Being connected through social media is a great thing – as long as you know how to handle it. Don’t get fired, expelled, or hauled to court for something you (or a friend) posted online. These people found out the hard way that social media can hurt.

Social Media Can Be Hazardous To Your Career

Just last month, a basketball coach at Pocatello High School in Pocatello, Iowa, was fired over an “immoral” photo posted to her Facebook account. Laraine Cook’s photo, which was on Facebook for less than a day, showed her with her fiancé, his hand on one of her breasts. Her fiancé works for the same school district but was only reprimanded. Cook is fighting to get her job back.

Also last month, senior White House official Jofi Joseph was fired after it was discovered he was behind the vicious tweets from @NatSecWonk. For over two years, he tweeted anonymously about foreign policy and bigwigs in D.C., including Hillary Clinton, whom he criticized for her handling of Benghazi. He since said he regrets the tweets.

Joseph is not the only politician to get into trouble through Twitter. Anthony Weiner’s infamous tweets cost him his political career, including his shot at becoming Mayor of New York.

Suspension and Expulsion From School Over Tweets and Posts

It’s not just employees who need to be careful, but students, too. Earlier this year, a New York high school senior created the Twitter hashtag #s**tCNSshouldcut about his school’s budget cuts. The tweets were not appreciated, and he was suspended. Several students have been expelled over the last few years for controversial tweets and Facebook posts, including three middle schoolers in Indiana who made comments on Facebook about which of their classmates they would like to kill.

Students applying for college need to think ahead, too. While social media is new enough that many universities and colleges don’t have an official policy on the matter, a reported 31% of institutions check into applicants’ life online, including Facebook pages and Twitter accounts, during the application process. Of those, 30% discovered something that negatively affected the application. One student’s offer of admission to Colgate University was rescinded after an alcohol-related experience was discovered online.

Students and Bullies Arrested For Online Behavior

Being fired or expelled is bad enough, but the wrong Facebook post or Instagram photo could also land you in court if you’re not careful. One 17-year-old Louisiana girl was arrested for possession after she posted a picture of marijuana on Instagram. The teen received a summons to appear in court next month. One student at Hudson Valley Community College in New York tweeted “You don’t know what’s in my backpack,” implying that he had a bomb. He was taken out of class and arrested. No bomb was found.

In California, a teen boy posted a video of himself beating up a schoolmate. He was arrested and faces expulsion. In a more heartbreaking case of bullying, a 12-year-old Florida girl committed suicide after being harassed by schoolmates on Facebook. Two girls, aged 12 and 14, were arrested last month in connection with Sedwick’s death.

Don’t Let It Happen To You

So what can you do? Be careful about what you share online, and keep an eye on what your friends are sharing about you, too. Unless “eraser laws” become more widespread, you’ll have to accept that you just can’t get some things taken down once they’re out there, and you’ll have to live with the consequences. Instead, consider “breaking up” with Facebook and other social media platforms. Finally, parents should speak with their children about what is and what is not appropriate online, as children and teens are the least likely to understand the consequences of the things they post.