The advent of social media brought on a firestorm of new outlets for internet users. Suddenly individuals were able to connect from all over the world with the click of a button on a single site, or several single sites as others began to pop up. After MySpace began gaining popularity in 2004, social media took off with other sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and SnapChat. It seems that every day a new social media is at our disposal, and even sites like Pinterest are allowing users to access social media features that were once not available on their sites. Essentially, social media is inescapable. While this feature has been wonderful for many, for others it has caused a headache. There have been many different issues with privacy, bullying, harassment, and other similar situations that have forced companies into enforcing social media policies. Not doing so has created dangerous situations for users in the past, and has forced many social media sites to launch their own polies outside of company-wide policies.
There are several reasons companies have social media policies when it comes to different social media platforms. According to, “Social Media? Get Serious! Understanding the Functional Building Blocks of Social Media,” companies primarily put policies in place for privacy and harassment protection . Companies have an obligation to their clientele to protect them and keep them from harm. It is also good for business if you can promise to some extent that you are working to keep client separate from anything harmful. Social media policies are not just for the user, however. “Professionalism in a Digital Age,” explains that having policies also protects the company from any blowback that might occur if users step outside the boundaries of the aforementioned policies . For example, if a company’s policy is to disallow users from posting nude photos of themselves on a particular social media site, but a user chooses to do so anyway, the photo may be copied and spread throughout the internet. Because the company’s policy stated this was against the rules, which the user agreed to, the user has then foregone any rights to hold the company responsible for what happens to the photo of their nude body. Fundamentally, many policies are in place to uphold safety, but also to enforce professionalism and keep situations fair.
Continuing with the protection of users and companies, there are several stipulations to social media policies. Bruce R. Lindsay documented in his report, for example, that it is perfectly acceptable for an individual to post photos of themselves, and of friends on social media websites, unless the photos show one or more of the individuals in compromising positions they did not express permission to being viewed in . This issue was seen most often in hospitals, surprisingly. It was typically an innocent gesture; nurses would post photos of themselves with patients they had grown close to, and begin sharing stories of the patient and their struggle. In many cases, especially concerning palliative care or oncology, the patient’s story is often the nurse’s story, and it can be difficult to decipher what is acceptable or even ethical to post on social media. Lines had to be drawn when several cases involving family members of patients grew upset and even began suing hospitals and social media sites because nurses were posting photos of patients as they were sleeping, in coma states, or in states of mind that were not autonomous . As a result, the stipulation that expressed permission of all parties must be given when posting about others on social media if somebody is involved in a compromising position. As of now, most hospitals do not allow medical staff to post photos of themselves while working, with patients, or near patients as part of the Medical Patients’ Rights Act, regarding the patient’s privacy . Other stipulations include that one cannot post nude photos of themselves, but also not of others. One cannot use social media to harm, threaten, or defame their company or other persons either . Bullying is also not tolerated on many social media sites.
Prior to setting a social media policy, there were many issues. Dangerous people took advantage of the relative lawlessness that social media offered. The exchange of nude photos online, as well as the innocent, but intrusive, posting of coma patients was just a few examples of the stipulations that arose from these policies. Prior to the monitoring of harassment on social networking sites, and the addition of moderators, bullying was a serious danger to many users. Teenagers and adolescents were particularly susceptible. Cyberbullying was a method of bullying that allowed harassers to follow the victim home; social media was supposed to be fun and enjoyable, but cyberbullying turned it into a nightmare for many. Before policies about harassment online were set in place, several suicides took place over cyberbullying as a result . Young Megan Meier hung herself in her bedroom closet after being intensely bullied on Myspace. There were no policies or laws against such harassment until her unfortunate death, which cited lawmakers into creating the Megan Meier Cyberbullying Prevention Act, in an attempt to stop future occurrences. Jessica Logan, another victim of cyberbullying, sent a nude photo of herself via text to her boyfriend. This was legal at the time, but after they broke up the boyfriend sent the photo to hundreds of people, and eventually the photo found its way on to Facebook. Logan eventually hung herself after attending the funeral of another boy who had committed suicide No charges were filed because no stipulations existed yet. Perhaps most upsetting was the story of Tyler Clementi, a young man who was filmed without his knowledge having a sexual encounter with another man in 2010. Clementi had not come out to anybody about his homosexuality yet, but was devastated when the video was posted on social networks, and committed suicide as a result of the bullying he endured . In this case, the culprits were at least charged with invasion of privacy because they had taped Clementi without his knowledge, but nothing more significant was done because no stipulations existed. These are three examples of what can happen when there are not strict policies enforced on social media: people can die.
In sum, it is very important that social media has rules. Whether companies enforce them, or the social media site itself enforces them, a state of lawlessness is very dangerous; all it results in is the pain and suffering of many users. It can also result in lawsuits on behalf of the companies and the social media networks. Companies need to enforce moderation to protect themselves, as well as their users. It ensures that privacy and safety are the first priority at all times while protecting the company’s assets. Stipulations may get in the way of some people sharing their full story, as it is with nurses who may want to share their story with a patient, but these are unavoidable. The nurse can be more discreet or not share the story at all; they must know what they are signing up for when they become a nurse. No rules on social media, even something as simple as AOL Instant Messenger, has the power to take over lives, especially in the form of harassment and cyberbullying. In several cases, the perpetrators knew they would not face any consequences and had nothing to stop them from continuously harassing the victims until they died. Social media without rules literally can result in death, which is why they are so crucial to the continual evolution of social networking and the internet at large.
Kaplan, Andreas and Michael Haenlein. "Users of the world, unite! The challenges and opportunities of Social Media." Business Horizons (2010): 59-68. Article.
Kietzmann, Jan H., et al. "Social media? Get serious! Understanding the functional building blocks of social media." Business Horizons (2011): 241-251. Article.
Lindsay, Bruce R. "Social Media and Disasters: Current Uses, Future Options, and Policy Considerations ." Research. 2011. Report.
Mostaghimi, Arash and Bradley H. Crotty. "Professionalism in the Digital Age." Annals of Internal Medicine (2011): 560-562. Article.