The benefits and dangers of the digital world

One day a Red Cross employee was getting ready to send a tweet through his Twitter account. It read: “Ryan found two more 4-bottle packs of Dogfish Head’s Midas Touch beer….when we drink we do it right #gettingslizzerd” (slang for “getting drunk”).

When he tweeted the message he made the mistake of tweeting it through the Red Cross Twitter account, not his own! It immediately went viral, being re-tweet around the world. The damage to the Red Cross could have been devastating in the form of their reputation, but they choose to be pro-active.

The Red Cross immediately tweeted, “We’ve deleted the rogue tweet but rest assured the Red Cross is sober and we have confiscated the keys!”

They quickly identified the mistake, but they Red Cross then took a second action.

Using their many media platforms they sent out the next message: “Please join the Dogfish Head Craft Brewery in raising money for the American Red Cross. If you are interested in donating a pint, please click here to learn more about Red Cross blood drives. Note: Alcohol can often make you more dehydrated. Dogfish Head recommends not drinking immediately before or after donating.”

With this response the Red Cross had made lemonade from lemons! They were able to respond quickly because of their bad experiences with social media and the digital world during Hurricane Katrina. This led them to hire digital media team to control the messages in cyberspace. This was the impact on a company, but can individuals be caught in the same situation?

A young woman had just accepted a job working for Cisco in California.

She immediately posted on Facebook: “Cisco just offered me a job! Now I have to weigh the utility of a fatty paycheck against the daily commute to San Jose and hating the work.” Cisco discovered the posting and withdrew their offer.

A gentleman working at a large bank asked his boss for Friday off to attend to “urgent family matters.” Someone then posted a photo of him on Facebook at a party that night wearing a tutu and holding a wand. His boss was alerted to this and reprimanded the employee. More importantly, his coworkers discovered his lie.

These three real life examples illustrate why each of us should pay close attention to what we post in the digital world. More and more platforms are being created for us to communicate with each other through cyberspace. Many we believe to be private, but even that is up for debate as companies buy and sell knowledge in the form of the data they collect from our use of their platforms.

Many companies are taking advantage of this data, hiring specialists such as Social Intelligence Inc. to conduct internet background checks. Many believe that just deleting posts will help, yet the best specialists can retrieve many of these deleted posts.

The Red Cross situation shows how we need to be prepared to make digital mistakes. We must immediately acknowledge them, find ways to turn the negative situation into a positive one, while adding humor. As individuals, we need to remember that the world is the audience of our digital footprint. We must be mindful of what we are contributing to that digital profile, do we really want others to see us in a tutu!

Dr. Steve Patchin is Superintendent of Hancock Public Schools. Programs he has contributed to creating include Mind Trekkers and CareerFEST, helping students explore their talents and associated careers in STEM. His research has focused on increasing development of self-efficacy in individual students.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)

Starting at $4.75/week.

Subscribe Today