Public Diplomacy and Global Communication 2014c

See, think, think again and share after.

Social media is a part of our everyday life. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and many other platforms help us to stay connected with family and friends, spread ideas and thoughts and even organise a revolution if needed. Social media is a vital part of companies marketing strategies, raising awareness on issues and acts of public diplomacy of states, but it is easy for individuals to get lost in social media, and loose sight of what is appropriate and what is not. Internet bullying and so called trolling has become a major issue simultaneously with the positive development that social media has gone through over the years.

A big question is that who is responsible for misbehaviour in social media? Of course the first reaction to answer is that the person whose posts we are talking about, but what if these people can’t be held responsible, such like children or people with learning disabilities, should the social media platform be held responsible for letting inappropriate posts to go public?

There is, of course, a difference on who is publishing and what, so if it is an individual or an representative of an organisation. An organisation usually have strict policies on who is posting and what is being posted in the name of that particular company, but an individuals are only responsible to themselves and there is a possibility that they do not understand the digital identity it might create, again especially if the individual is a child or otherwise not quite able to comprehend the scale and the permanence of social media.

Facebook and Twitter describe themselves as platforms that make communications possible, rather than being there for the sake of publishing content, a characterisation which essentially moves their responsibility of the content to the user. Twitter has 302 million active users monthly when Facebook has 1.44 billion active users monthly and with user amounts like that, they had to come up with something to point out misbehaving users, and so someone who finds a post offensive can report it to the administration of the site and they can remove these posts and give penalties, for example expel a user for a certain period of time. This is a step in to the right direction, but there is no way that a platform with that many users can never be completely free of misuse.

Social media has a tendency to have so called “viral’s” where a photo, a video or a page of a community spreads fast in to peoples feeds and become popular. These can be absolutely anything, and there is no clear cause for them. They are usually very relatable for people and cause discussion, for example this dress and it’s color:

Dress photo

This case went viral in a matter of hours and even traditional media was writing stories about it trying to explain why people see the colours of the dress differently. One can read more about the conversations here, here and here.

This is a great example of a viral, but there is another way of looking at these viral’s. Earlier this year in Kenya, a group called Al Shabaab attacked Garissa university and killed 147 people. This act in itself was horrifying, and it had a lot of attention and discussion in social media. People were understandably worried and compassionate about this act of violence against students, and they wanted to raise awareness on what is happening in the world by posting and tweeting a photo of dead bodies taken in the university. You can find the photo here but I do warn that the image is disturbing for sensitive viewers.

I’m sure the intention was good for most people, but the fact that people are raising awareness to horrible acts by posting photos of violently killed corpses, which degrading to their lives and offensive to their remaining relatives, is not really appropriate use of the platforms of social media.

Publics were so overwhelmed by emotion that they became desensitised to the horror and forgot that the photo was taken of real people who had lost their lives, but if the thought process would have gone any further, they might have realised that if the photo had themselves or their own relatives in it, no one would actually want it to be published let alone shared in the intention of raising awareness.

There are various training programmes and information sites provided for several groups of social media users, such like teenagers, parents and public officials which you can read more about in herehere and here. These sites gives guidelines for the code of conduct when using social media, which is very important to know about especially if one is still learning or does not fully understand social media. Is it enough though as then this is left for individuals to decide if it is necessary or not. As social media is part of everyday life, shouldn’t it be practiced how to use it in everyday life so that we don’t harm ourselves and the identity offline by posting or sharing something potentially harmful for our future.

References, (2015). [online] Available at: [Accessed 31 May 2015]., (2015). Company | About. [online] Available at: [Accessed 31 May 2015].

BBC News, (2015). Kenya attack: 147 dead in Garissa University assault – BBC News. [online] Available at: [Accessed 31 May 2015].

BBC News, (2015). Kenya attack: 147 dead in Garissa University assault – BBC News. [online] Available at: [Accessed 31 May 2015].

BBC News, (2015). Why everyone is asking: What colour is this dress?’ – BBC News. [online] Available at: [Accessed 31 May 2015]., (2015). Social Media Policy. [online] Available at: [Accessed 31 May 2015].

IFLScience, (2015). The Science Of Why This Dress Looks Different Colors To Different People. [online] Available at: [Accessed 31 May 2015].

Pannoni, A. (2014). Talk to Teens About Being Responsible on Social Media – US News. [online] US News & World Report. Available at: [Accessed 31 May 2015].

Statista, (2015). Facebook: monthly active users 2015 | Statistic. [online] Available at: [Accessed 31 May 2015].

Team, S., Team, S., Team, S., Team, S., Team, S., Ochs, J., Ochs, J., Ochs, J., Ochs, J., Team, S., Team, S., Ochs, J., Ochs, J., Ochs, J. and Team, S. (2015). Teens Social Media Safety | [online] Safe Smart Social. Available at: [Accessed 31 May 2015].

Wallisch, P. (2015). An Expert’s Lessons From the Dress: Why Don’t We All See the Same Thing?. [online] Slate Magazine. Available at: [Accessed 31 May 2015].


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