Review your part in society before taking risks on the internet

Leader or follower, be wary of how your post might affect you


Tricia Drumm, Mill Valley News editor-in-chief

You’ve probably heard it dozens of times — be careful what you post on the internet. Google “what you post is forever” and there are millions of results waiting for you. I’ve talked about social media and its hazards before, but I want to zero in more on the people rather than social media itself. While stranger danger and employment opportunities are obviously important to keep in mind when you post on social media, what you need to consider is your role in society.

In my opinion, people can be divided into two main categories: leaders and followers. Do you influence others or do others influence you? Sometimes, there’s no definite answer. You can easily be a mix of both.

For my leaders out there — you have an important job for an obvious reason. You are the influencers: the Oprah Winfreys, Barack Obamas, Mona Hanna-Attishas, any woman who has spoken out against sexual harrassment and so forth. It doesn’t get much more complicated than that. However, what is complicated is the response you might receive if you promote something of poor taste.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard about social media star Logan Paul’s debacle early 2018. In case you don’t know, I’ll bring you up to speed. As part of his daily vlogs on his YouTube channel, Paul posted a video where he wandered about Aokigahara, more commonly known as ‘suicide forest,’ on his trip to Japan. Without going into too much detail, Paul then found and filmed the body of a man who had recently completed suicide. Paul took the video down before YouTube could, but his removing the video didn’t stop the backlash from pouring in.

The biggest consequence Paul faced was when YouTube cut ties with him, taking him off of a YouTube Original and no longer promoting him on the website itself.

In a weird way, Paul is an influencer. Tons of people (mostly tweens and younger) commented that they still supported him on his oddly robotic apology video. For those of us with common sense, Paul is a statistic of a person who doesn’t think before they act rather than an influence. For his fans and those who support him (for some reason), he’s giving off two messages: one, it’s OK to exploit victims; two, if you apologize then everything will be alright. Neither of those are acceptable.

If you’re a leader, you need to be encouraging other people and spreading positive messages. What does it say about you if you post something risqué, sexual or not, and you don’t get the intended response?

Considering what I just said about leaders, being a follower sounds underwhelming. In truth, it isn’t. Being a follower is as significant as being a leader, and sometimes you need to be a follower.

See, following goes in a circle and aligns with operant conditioning. Somebody posts something, which you might like. You liking it encourages them and makes them feel good, causing them to post similar things. The cycle starts over.

When you’re a follower, you’re subscribing, literally and metaphorically, to someone or something. When I say “follow,” I mean following an account, liking, commenting or anything similar. Whether or not you proclaim your loyalty, as a follower, you are the reinforcers of the internet. You decide what should go viral and what should be short-lived. If you follow, that shows you condone the content or behavior of the message. You decide what’s acceptable. If you speak out, you are an advocate for change.

However, my comment about following leading to condoning isn’t necessarily true. For example, I follow President Donald Trump on Twitter, but that’s because I like to stay relatively in touch with politics (and his first year certainly has been a crazy political ride). In contrast, if I retweet one of his conservative statements, that sends a totally different message to my followers. (Side note: I don’t say this to bash conservatives; I say this because it’s not what I would post.)

As a follower, you take on the role of both leader and follower. By following, you share your opinion and lead other people to what you think they could believe or want to see. That’s why a follower is as important as a leader.

Before posting to social media, you have to consider your role in society. Leader, follower, whoever you may be — doing or promoting something you probably shouldn’t is not worth the risk of potentially damaging how people perceive you or sabotage future opportunities.

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