Ethical Implications of Graphic Images

The Boston Bombings brought along many images of people who were either killed or seriously injured in the blasts. Many of these images were placed in online articles with a disclaimer that these images were graphic and people should look at their own risk. But when it comes to social media, there sometimes is no disclaimer. Even if there is a warning in the text of the post, often times the audience scrolls to the image before they have a chance to read the warning. I honestly don’t see anything good that can come from posting graphic photos from the Boston Bombings on social media.

Images that end up in various news feeds don’t have age filters on them. Even if a teen is old enough to have Facebook or Twitter,  they may not be mature enough to handle images of death or gruesome injuries. Obviously I don’t think the teens would be seeking out images of this nature, so I believe it is the responsibility of the person who is posting them to consider all the ways that it could upset the audience if he or she did post them.

As I mentioned, instead of posting the image directly to social media, they could post the article with the disclaimer, to give people a choice of whether they want to see the images or not. This could not only shield minors from viewing the images, but it would protect friends and family members of the victims from having to involuntarily see images that might bring back painful memories. Finally, if members of the audience have an uneasy stomach or can’t handle any type of blood or gore, the wall of the link would shield them from the potential of getting sick.

If someone were to post graphic images from the Boston Bombings on social media for everyone to see, some could view that as the person wanting attention or trying to shock the audience rather than doing something good. With a tragedy so widely publicized as this, people understand the extent of the damage without having to see it on social media. If people wanted to donate their time or blood to help victims, they could do that without a graphic image persuading them.

Finally, if a victim of the tragedy was injured and one of their photos was put on social media without their permission, there could be serious ethical concerns. Personal privacy vs. public interest would certainly be one of the main arguments. The victim may not want to be remembered forever as “the person who survived the Boston Bombings” and wouldn’t want to be looked on with pity for the rest of his or her life. If their photo was placed on social media and went viral, there’s a good chance that the person would never be able to break their public association with the event.



The Convenience of Privacy

When it comes to social media, privacy can be a tricky thing. People are on social networks to connect and share information with their friends. But certain people don’t want the entire world knowing their business. This is where privacy settings come in. If I’m being honest, I probably haven’t taken a close look at my privacy settings for at least six months to a year. I just don’t post that many things on social media where I feel like it would hurt my safety or my reputation if they were made totally public. There are certain things that I hide from certain people, mainly family members, that I might want to hide so I don’t get bombarded with questions. The beauty of status updates on Facebook, my main social network, is that you can block certain people from seeing one post, but not your entire profile. I am willing to admit that I have done that a few times to save myself a little stress.

I think many people don’t use privacy settings to their advantage because they either don’t understand them or aren’t aware of involuntary changes made to them. There are ways to combat both issues. Every time Facebook, Twitter or any other social media channel makes changes to their privacy policy, the channel needs to go out of their way to notify users. They can send emails, messages, news feed posts, whatever they need to do to make sure users are aware of the smallest change in their privacy. People will lessen the complaints as long as they feel like the channel is being honest with them. And to make users comprehend them better, instead of only using legal jargon, they could also have a simpler explanation next to it for reference.

Another aspect to privacy on social media is whether you should have to deal with journalists in a supposed “safe space.” I studied journalism in undergrad and I consider myself an ethical journalist. My alma mater, The University of Arizona, would condemn me if I were to ever try to contact a source of a sensitive news situation on social media. However, I will alter their way of thinking for my own process in getting the scoop. I will use social media to connect with a source, only if every other mode of communication had been exhausted. But, I would be completely honest about who I was and what my motive was. I will not compromise my integrity and ethics just for a story.

In the same vein, if I did gain access to that person’s private social media material, all of that material would remain private unless I was otherwise given permission to use it. If the words “off the record” are spoken, the information is not usable. I would not take the information from the source and share it as my own on any social network unless I was allowed to do so. Republishing material without permission is a form of plagiarism and copyright infringement. If I didn’t want someone else to do it to me, I am certainly not going to do it to them.

All In Social Moderation

When I consider behavior patterns on social media, I don’t think Facebook and Twitter are all that different for the average person. When it comes to language, people seem to be just as informal on Twitter as they are on Facebook. I think people tend to say more on Facebook just because they can. Many of the things posted on social media require an explanation or backstory that cannot be explained in 140 characters. For me, I’m more laid back on Facebook than I am on Twitter. I think because of the character restriction, I have to think long and hard about what I’m going to say on Twitter. That is why I think I use Facebook for pleasure and I use Twitter for school-and-work-related business.

I know I take more chances on Twitter than I do on Facebook, especially when it comes to engaging with other people, particularly celebrities. On Facebook, I moderate what I say in content because it’s just my friends and I am not sure how they are going to respond to what I post. With Twitter, some of my followers are complete strangers and the celebrities I tweet are not personal friends of mine. So I actually feel more comfortable posting things to strangers than I do my friends. I don’t care if someone I don’t know wants to ignore me or thinks what I said was dumb, but I care about what my friends think of me.

Moving to the content I post on each channel, I think Facebook is where I can be myself and post about my personal life or things I find interesting. I try not to post about a high score on a game to annoy my audience, but I will send a game request if I need one because that’s private between two people. I haven’t posted something about school in six months, which means I’m actually using Facebook to be social. On my Twitter profile, you will see many retweets or mentions of other people. I try to engage as many as I can to increase my followers. My postings also aren’t as frequent on Twitter because of my issues with the character count that I mentioned before. I actually didn’t post on Twitter for over two months because I didn’t have anything that interesting to post.

Ethically, I don’t see much of a difference in what people say between Facebook and Twitter. I think people moderate and respond to comments on Facebook more than they respond on Twitter. The response on Twitter is usually just the few words they can fit into a retweet, but not an actual thought out response. I think most of the time people don’t moderate, they sit back and enjoy the fact that people are paying attention to them. Moderation for any business is important because it shows the audience you’re listening and that you care, which I’m learning in my job.

Billboard is Climbing the Social Media Charts Slowly

Having a good relationship with customers is imperative to the success of a brand. In scanning all of the major brands I follow on social media, one seemed to stand out as being on their way to conducting good customer relationship management or CRM. Billboard is a well-respected company that specializes in analyzing chart success of today’s biggest songs while also breaking major music news. They currently have channels on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram which totals close to 5 million followers among the 3 channels. Their current CRM on social media is good, but like everything else, can be improved.

Billboard on Twitter does a great job of mentioning other musical artists that are in the articles they tweet. What they don’t do is engage in conversations with those artists or any other fans. The only retweets they send are when they are mentioned in the tweet or the tweet contains an article that was written by Billboard.



Their activity on their Facebook page is pretty much the same as Twitter. They tag artists’ fan pages that are mentioned in the articles they share. However, they have received anywhere from two to 2,000 comments on posts just from the last few days and they haven’t replied or liked a single one! A social media team is not only meant to create the posts, but engage with the customers and Billboard is not doing that. At O.C.D. Experience, even if our social media team doesn’t reply to every comment or tweet, we at least like or favorite the comment or tweet. No response at all makes it seem like Billboard doesn’t care about its fanbase as much as other companies do.

Billboard’s voice on Facebook is so stale that when they do try to add some personality, it seems like they’re doing it because they have to, not because they want to. But, their Twitter account seems like it is run by a completely different person because their voice is fun and at least tries to include the audience a little by asking questions. Their Twitter profile is updated several more times a day than their Facebook page, which show’s me where their social media focus is. If one were to really analyze it, there seems to be a new person tweeting than there was even a few days ago, because the voice has gotten more lively in the last handful of tweets. Overall on both accounts, it’s very clear that their purpose on social media is to promote themselves. Every single post on Facebook or update on Twitter has a link to an article on their website.

If they want to increase their influence on social media, they need to start including their audience in conversations and don’t put 100 percent of the focus on self-promotion. I know what I said last week about self-promotion, but there’s a certain point where it gets too much, and Billboard has surpassed that point. I want to enjoy following them on social media, but unless they change their habits, I won’t be able to enjoy them.

Using My Voice To Build Relationships

This week’s lecture brought up a topic that I’ve been analyzing for several weeks now, finding my voice on social media. I want to be as authentic as possible, but it’s more difficult for me because I also want to be perfect. I definitely have a different voice in written form (emails, social media, blogs etc.) than I do on the phone or in person. Social media is my area to take chances and be bolder with my relationships than I would over the phone or in person, because I can hide behind a computer. That’s an ethical quandary in itself. Once I find and become comfortable in my voice, I think building relationships will become much easier.

As I look over the checklist of advice on finding my voice provided to us in lecture, I have not perfected any of these items, but I’m more confident in certain areas. On Facebook, in both my professional account with the O.C.D. Experience and my personal account, I usually don’t speak unless I’m spoken to. I feel like that aligns with my personality because I am always approachable, but not usually the approacher. I always respond to every message I receive on Facebook, but I’m beginning to send more messages than I used to, at least on my personal account. As I get more confident in my job with the O.C.D. Experience, I may start to make connections that will improve the reach of the brand. Twitter for some reason gives me more confidence to grow my personal brand of becoming a music critic, because I have reached out to, and gotten responses from a few people in the industry that can help later on.

I feel like my natural tone in my writing is a healthy mix of passion and sarcasm. If I enjoy what I am writing about in blogs or social media, the audience will be able to feel that when they read it. When I enjoy writing, I am usually very conversational and human. If not I sound like a robot, which annoys me probably more than it annoys my audience. Unless I am doing something for school, I make myself available at all times for engaging with the audience of the O.C.D. Experience and I respond as quickly as I can. As a company, O.C.D. Experience has lessened the amount we sell on social media, because after a while the same people are seeing the same messages all the time. This can ruin relationships rather than build them.

I think the reason some brands see quick response as a threat is because it challenges them to be better. When responding to a customer’s needs, I respond as fast as I can because that’s what they need from me, moreso than what’s most beneficial to the company. Maintaining good relationships by responding to the needs of the audience will be beneficial to both the audience and the brand because it allows for brand loyalty and maintaining relationships.


Why I Trust Michael Slezak

It is very hard for me to trust someone I’ve never met. For me to trust someone on social media means that many of the characteristics involved in trust–eye contact, body language and tone of voice to name a few–cannot be analyzed. All I have to go on is the social media content being presented to me and how others react to it. So when I was asked who I trust on social media, one name popped in my head. Michael Slezak is a name I’ve mentioned several times in other blog posts as one of my favorite entertainment journalists/critics. I may not always agree with his opinions, but I always respect them.

I follow Michael Slezak on Twitter, his main social media channel of choice. I just found out that he has a personal Facebook profile of which I’m scared to send a friend request because I think he’ll either deny it or ignore it because he doesn’t know me. That’s a dream I don’t need crushed right now. Most of his Facebook posts are public though, so I can view them without needing to be friends with him.

I respect Slezak as a journalist because he is always honest and never afraid to speak his mind. This bleeds into the content he posts on social media as well. He will shamelessly plug certain contestants on American Idol or The Voice with no apologies. If you’ve watched even one episode of his weekly web series Reality Check on TVLine (I’ve watched almost all of them), you know that Slezak actually has plenty of technical musical skills. So even though his favorites are not always my favorites, he backs up his choices with proof of their skills. He certainly has the authority on social media to make people listen to what he has to say. He is one of those people that can get away with self-promotion on social media because he is always so accurate.

His helpfulness on social media may be a little unconventional, but it’s there. He doesn’t respond to every comment on Facebook or every tweet on Twitter, but when he does, it makes an impact. He is constantly sharing other people’s content or retweeting things sent to him by fans or co-workers, showing that he’s willing to promote others as well as himself. He has shared personal details of his life, like being a huge fan of horse racing and being an openly gay married man. Anyone who is as honest as he is in his work and his personal life has earned my trust on social media.

I don’t necessarily think Michael Slezak gains anything from having my trust on social media right now. He has almost 34,000 other people that trust him on Twitter and Facebook as well, so I doubt it would make much of a difference if I trusted him or not. However, when I make my mark in the music criticism and social media world, he will be listed as one of my biggest influences. What Slezak could gain from having my trust is career longevity. I could bring a new audience to him that he currently doesn’t have. As long as he keeps producing top-notch social media content, he can have as long a career as he wants and he will always have my trust.

Reading The Fine Print

Terms and conditions are a hotly debated issue in the realm of social media. Do people read them? If so, do they do everything they can to follow them? I can tell you that I have not read the terms and conditions for anything since I was probably in middle school over a decade ago. In fact, I think the last terms and conditions document I read may have been when I downloaded iTunes for the first time. If I were to make an assumption, I would say that if people wanted to read the terms and conditions, they maybe started the document and gave up when they realized it would take far too long to read. With absolutely no data to back it up, I would venture a guess that less than five percent of people read the terms and conditions.

Facebook is my main channel of choice for most of my personal and professional social media use. After reading their terms and conditions, or Statement of Rights and Responsibilities as they like to call it, there would be some things I would either take out or word differently. Under the “Sharing Your Content and Information” section, I was confused by the ability to use IP content and how intellectual property rights are involved. I realize this may fall under legal instead of ethical, but if there are intellectual property rights, why can Facebook use any photos or videos that I as a user would post? What I might do if I were to revise the terms and conditions is to either add a short blurb or a link to the definition of intellectual property rights. That way ethically Facebook can fully explain how they are allowed to use the photos or videos. If the users don’t want to read it, that’s their own fault. That would be in keeping with the language of the document, placing the responsibility on the user for agreeing and living up to the terms.

In the “Safety” section, I think they should either come down harder on offenders of logging into another user’s account or they should take it out of the document. Many of us in the program have at one time or another logged in for a friend who willingly gave you their login information. Clearly this doesn’t always work the way they want it to, but people only give out that information to people they really trust. Finally, the last point I want to mention is about creating multiple accounts, which is under the “Registration and Account Security” section. I know many college friends who have one account for personal use while the other is for business. I have yet to hear about someone being reprimanded for having multiple accounts, so I think Facebook is being ethically misleading  by having that rule in the document if they aren’t going to enforce it.

Since I don’t use Twitter or Instagram nearly as often as I do Facebook, I will save my analysis of their Terms and Conditions for my weekly reading reaction. What do you think of my alterations to Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities? Let me know in the comments.