There’s a policy adage that proclaims the world is run by those who show up. In a social media influenced world, it is becoming more about those who “write it up,” regardless of the truth.
Recently an “admirer” of Joel Olsteen from Minneapolis admitted to creating an elaborate Internet persona of the evangelist only to make false claims on his behalf, some of which were published in legitimate media before being debunked. One wonders if the editors at the duped media bothered to apply even a gut test of the claims before running the stories.
The ease with which some social media platforms allow anyone to develop content under assumed identity leads to the potential for great abuse – whether in the name of admiration or something more sinister.
On a less grand scale, the potential for an individual online profile to be formally or informally “hacked” can lead to problems as well. Every few days I see posts on the Facebook newsfeed from one of my son’s status posts depicting some patently false depiction of his thoughts and actions in that moment. I know full well he has left his laptop or phone unattended for a mischievous sibling to exact some payback for leaving a mess in their apartment or some other infraction. There may be those in their lists of “friends” who are merely acquaintances that may take the sudden announcements of drastic lifestyle change as truth.
This may all be in good fun now, but what about years from now if these “truths” are long forgotten? Plenty of evidence suggests that the electronic footprint of semi-public messages is more likely to fossilize somewhere in the Ethernet to potentially resurface when someone runs for office than to disappear under the advance of the next wave of digital communities.
At the risk of sounding like a curmudgeon, we owe it to ourselves and the organizations we serve to be a bit more prudent in how we: conduct ourselves in the social media space; decide what content represents truth; and how we make choices about the voices and information to be taken credibly.
I assure you that this post was written by me. Really. Would I lie to you?