The June 5, 2017, Wall Street Journal article by Melissa Korn entitled “Harvard Rescinds Admission Offer to Students Over Offensive Messages: Social media has become a minefield for young people who overshare” discussed a situation of which I have been warning for years.
All three of my HOW TO SUCCEED books for teens and young adults begin with this warning:
WARNING – READ THIS RIGHT NOW TO SAVE YOURSELF FROM MAJOR MISTAKES
No matter what – NEVER, EVER, EVER put anything online that could damage your future.
And NEVER believe that privacy controls will protect you. Even if you think no one except yourself can see that nude picture of you, do NOT put it online.
While I am a huge advocate of effectively using social media for your goals in life, I also know that sharing inappropriate information, photos or videos can really hurt you.
In case you are unsure what could be harmful to your college applications or beyond — here is a partial list:
- Photos or videos of yourself with beer, alcohol or controlled substances in your hands
- Photos or videos of yourself in lewd (or no) clothing
- Photos or videos of yourself making vulgar hand gestures
- Comments or videos with R-rated swear words
- Hurtful comments or videos about others
Photos and comments can live on the Internet forever even if you have deleted these. Please do NOT shoot yourself in the foot by putting inappropriate photos, videos or comments online.
The part where I warn never to believe that privacy controls will protect you is especially important, as this Journal article details:
Harvard University rescinded admission offers for at least 10 incoming freshmen after they discovered the students had posted sexually explicit and otherwise offensive messages in a private Facebook chat.
Clearly this chat wasn’t as private as these students thought. And even if it were truly private, what kind of judgment does the following say about the individuals involved? Are these young people to be our country’s future leaders?
The Journal reported that the following information was first reported by the Harvard Crimson:
… a handful of admitted students formed a messaging group online in December allowing them to send provocative and offensive memes and images to one another. The messages mocked sexual assault and the Holocaust, among other sensitive subjects. At least one joked that abusing children was sexually arousing, while another called the hanging of a Mexican child “piñata time.”
The article also says:
Social media has turned into a minefield for prospective college students and grads looking for jobs, as well as those already gainfully employed. Drunken party photos — especially for those still not of legal drinking age —or inappropriate racial comments can torpedo an otherwise solid candidate, admissions officials and HR experts warn.
While social media can be used for numerous good purposes, such as to raise funds for nonprofit causes, it apparently also encourages certain individuals to engage in prurient behavior. If these students had gotten away with their offensive postings, imagine what else they might believe they could get away with?
To be clear, I am not advocating thought police. I am advocating that students of all abilities — and especially those of superior academic abilities who are lucky to be so gifted — understand the responsibility that each person has to use good judgment offline and online in discussing people and events. And to understand that hate speech, even in “jest,” is offensive and can lead to hurtful actions.
The Journal article continues:
Following the lead of career coaches, many high school guidance counselors now recommend students review their Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other accounts for embarrassing or outright offensive material before submitting applications.
Yet, it would be far wiser to NEVER post such material rather than having to remove it before applying to college. This is especially important as it is not always clear whether something removed from your own social media accounts is really completely removed. And that one offensive post you published somewhere else and totally forgot about?
It would be lovely to think that these students losing their acceptance from Harvard would serve as a warning for all the other young people who believe they can post offensive material in supposedly private online groups. Unfortunately, I doubt most young people will take this warning to heart.
You might want to gift young people you care about with one of my three HOW TO SUCCEED books, depending on the recipient’s age:
- HOW TO SUCCEED IN HIGH SCHOOL AND PREP FOR COLLEGE
- HOW TO SUCCEED IN COLLEGE AND PREP FOR BEYOND COLLEGE
- HOW TO SUCCEED BEY0ND COLLEGE
The lives these young people who don’t heed these warnings ruin may be their own.
© 2017 Miller Mosaic LLC
Phyllis Zimbler Miller (@ZimblerMiller) has an M.B.A. from The Wharton School and is the author of fiction and nonfiction books/ebooks. Phyllis is available by skype for book group discussions and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Her Kindle fiction ebooks may be read for free with a Kindle Unlimited monthly subscription — see www.amazon.com/author/phylliszimblermiller — and her Kindle nonfiction ebooks may also be read for free with a Kindle Unlimited monthly subscription — see www.amazon.com/author/phylliszmiller