Is Facebook Your Friend?
In the six years since it first launched, Facebook has grown from a small community of college users to a vast network of millions. Just in the last year, Facebook’s user base expanded from 150 million “active users” worldwide to more than 400 million. It’s long since passed MySpace for social networking dominance and recently passed Yahoo as the second most popular Web site, after Google.
Yet, for all its popularity, Facebook still poses certain risks. Of course there are scammers and predators on this site, but many of the risks are due to something less nefarious: an unwritten code of conduct about who you should and shouldn’t be friends with, and what kind of content you should feel comfortable posting.
Here are some of the dumbest mistakes that we could find from current (and former) Facebook users, as well as the real world repercussions that occurred because of these errors.
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Hiring a Hit Man
Last month, Gloria Gadsden, a sociology professor at East Stroudsburg University in Pennsylvania was suspended from her job for a comment she made on Facebook. According to the Huffington Post, Gadsden jokingly wrote a post saying she was looking for a hit man. She also “removed another comment that said she didn’t want to kill any students but ‘Friday was a different story.’"
Now, I’m sure plenty of teachers joke about wanting to axe their troublesome students when they get drinks with co-workers after school, but is there a difference between joking about it in conversation and putting it in writing where lots of people can see it (although we should note that as of now, Gadsden’s profile is restricted, which is a step in the right direction). Clearly, many Facebook users are sympathetic to this issue, as there is currently a group on the site called Support Gloria Gadsden which has 79 members.
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Compromising National Security
The Israeli military was planning a top secret mission to sweep through a village in the West Bank, but their plans were jeopardized when one soldier foolishly revealed some of the details on his status update on Facebook. According to MSNBC, the soldier “posted the time and location of the raid on his Facebook page, saying that the troops were planning on ‘cleaning up’ the village.” The soldier has since been court-martialed and sentenced to 10 days in prison.
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Kimberly from St. Louis has had her fair share of Facebook “faux pas.” But perhaps none stands out more in her mind than the one she wrote to us about. She went on a road trip with three others to see the Saints play in the Super Bowl in Miami. When she got home, Althage decided to post photos from the event on Facebook, only to have her husband become “crazy irritated” with her. It turned out that one of the people traveling with her was on parole following a DWI and not supposed to leave the state. “I knew he couldn’t drive… but I had no idea he had broken his parole going with us,” she wrote. Not sure what to do, she removed all the photo tags of him and made the album private to protect him. He hasn’t been reprimanded… yet.
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Earlier this year, Taylor Cummings, a Tennessee student was expelled from his high school for a violent rant he posted to Facebook. According to USA Today. “After weeks of butting heads with his coaches, Taylor, 17, logged on to the popular social networking site from home Jan. 3. He typed his frustrations for the online world to see: "I'ma kill em all. I'ma bust this (expletive) up from the inside like nobody's ever done before."
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Carolyn Lorimer bought an apartment in Kent, England a few years back, and then decided to rent it out. Unfortunately, the tenants started to wreck the place with their crazy parties and posted pictures of all the debauchery to Facebook. Ms. Lorimer by chance discovered the photos on Facebook and started making moves to evict the tenants. Unfortunately, they beat her to the punch, and disappeared, leaving behind thousands of dollars in damage and owing her months of back rent. That’s rough.
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Fired Over Embarassing Pictures
One high school teacher in Georgia was fired after some pictures of her drinking on Vacation (complete with curse-filled captions) popped up on Facebook. In some ways, she actually did everything right – her Facebook page was private and she was not friends with any students. Yet, she was friends with colleagues on the site and apparently, any R-rated activity can be risky. This is the second teacher on our list, so it would seem that school administrators need to do a better job instructing their staff how to behave on social networks.
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Fired Over Dumb Status Update
In one now infamous case, a teenager working in the U.K. posted to Facebook that she thought her job was “boring.” Soon enough, she found out she was being axed over her comment. And then there’s this too-good-to-be-true online exchange between an employee who updated her status, trashing her boss, seemingly forgetting that she was friends with her boss on Facebook. Naturally, he took the opportunity to respond. It wasn’t pretty. He fired her in front of all her Facebook friends.
If this sounds like a fluke, it’s not. According to Mashable, 8% of American companies have reported firing employees because of something they did on a social network.
Check out MainStreet’s coverage of the strangest reasons for people being fired.
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An Obstacle for Job Applicants
Facebook can also be a serious obstacle for you getting that job in the first place. According to an MSNBC article from a couple years ago, many job recruiters have turned down candidates because they discovered topless party photos or evidence of extreme partying. While this is a danger for any job seeker, it seems to be a particular threat to those aspiring to work in medical professions and, of course, politics, since they are supposed to be upstanding members of the community with squeaky clean, respectable reputations.
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As we mentioned in the intro, there are no shortage of scams and predators on Facebook. In one terrible case, Anthony Stanci, 19, pretended to be a girl on Facebook and tricked 30 guys into sending naked pictures of themselves. He then used those pictures as blackmail to get those men to sleep with him. It’s a twisted case, but it is more proof that you should never send illicit personal material online, especially to strangers.
More recently, there have been an increasing amount of fake groups created on Facebook to scam users. AllFacebook.com has a good list of scams you should avoid.
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It’s every parent’s worst nightmare, and for one couple, it was a reality. Sarah and Michael Hobday went out for a nice evening and left their daughter at home to have a birthday party, with a couple of her older friends acting as chaperones. Unfortunately, someone put up a post on Facebook about the party, and it quickly went viral. By the end of the night, 500 people had flocked to the house and destroyed the property. Never make an event public on Facebook unless A) It’s at a public venue, not your house or B) You’ve got plenty of security.
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Amy from Brooklyn, New York wrote to us about a mistake she made unknowingly. “When I first joined Facebook I just friended absolutely anybody who requested it (I hate saying no). Which meant that my best friend, who had spent years carefully cultivating her friend list, was immediately discovered by every high-school classmate she had been trying to avoid for 20 years. I'm not sure if you consider this a serious repercussion, but my friend sure did.”
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It should be no surprise that Facebook and other social networks make it easier for people to be flirtatious. But for all of you out there who are married or otherwise spoken for, keep in mind that chatting with someone on Facebook still has its risks, even if you don’t end up with lipstick stains on your shirt. According to the Telegraph, one UK law firm found that nearly one in five divorce petitions mentioned Facebook as a leading reason.
And then there was the infamous case of Emma Brady, who only found out her husband was divorcing her after he posted it as an update on Facebook. Facebook may not have caused their divorce in this case, but it definitely caused a lot of grief nonetheless.
Check out this hilarious parody video of how Facebook can destroy a relationship.
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Parents Posting Baby Pictures
We know a lot of parents out there are joining Facebook these days and posting pictures and posts about their precious children, but we would urge you to exercise some restraint in what you post, because it may come back to haunt them even if it doesn’t come back to hurt you necessarily.
Photo Credit: Dan Harrelson
Tell Us Your Stories
Are you one of the 400 million current Facebook users or, even better, one of those who retreated from the site? And are you human? Well then we’re sure you’ve made at least one silly mistake on the site that had some negative impact. Let us know about it in the comments section so we can all learn from it.
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