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5 Ways Online Shaming Can Flourish

Study says social media is the most common venue for online harassment.

Samuel Borges Photography/Shutterstock
Source: Samuel Borges Photography/Shutterstock

Why do we post things we know can get us in trouble?

According to a PEW Research survey, 58 percent of adults say they have experienced harassment on social media platforms.

People use platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and beyond for a variety of reasons. Whether it's social networking, engaging with friends, or building a business, your digital landscape is a priceless asset that you must maintain. And yet harassment is prevalent in these playgrounds. We frequently read about teens and cyberbullying; however, PEW discovered that 41 percent of adults are also victims of online abuse.

How can we reduce our chances of being harassed or shamed online?

1. Never assume you're among friends.

Google the name Lindsey Stone to realize that a simple post to your private Facebook account can land you global attention — and not the positive kind. Declutter your friends and contact list frequently.

2. Never assume your words won't get twisted.

When Justine Sacco sent the infamous tweet, "Going to Africa. Hope I don't get aids. Just kidding. I'm white," little did she know the storm that would erupt from it.

“Jokes are complicated, context is hard,” as Sam Biddle wrote in a New York Times Magazine piece, “Rage is easy.”

3. Write as if the world is watching.

Are you about to send a confidential email or make a comment on a post that might be a bit controversial? No matter what the terms of service are on your platform, or whatever clauses are imprinted at the bottom of that email, there are simply no guarantees of privacy online. From the Ashley Madison scenario to the email debacle of the Democratic party, what you post online, stays online.

4. Don't air your workplace woes.

Remember the 25-year-old Yelp/Eat24 employee who wrote an open letter griping to the company’s wealthy CEO about her low pay? “I can’t afford to buy groceries,” she wrote in her widely read post. “Isn’t that ironic? Your employee for your food delivery app that you spent $300 million to buy can’t afford to buy food.” She ended up getting fired within hours, explaining in a later tweet that she had apparently violated her company’s “terms of conduct.”

5. Never put a temporary emotion on the permanent internet.

Being angry and holding a keypad is not a good combination. Perhaps you're debating leaving a snarky remark for a service or product you didn't care for, or maybe your significant other just broke up with you and you're considering "e-venge"; just remember, the internet never forgets. It has a way of coming back to haunt you. Just as you would (or should) when sending sensitive emails, take 24 hours to consider your thoughts. Then be constructive with your message, not combative: This is a reflection of your character — and not always, as you might hope, the other person's flaws.

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