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What Does “Inappropriate” Mean When It Comes to Social Media?

by | Jun 10, 2020

We’ve all heard the advice, whether from parents, friends, family, colleagues, or bosses: “don’t post anything inappropriate online”. Once you’ve said that, most of us assume the person with whom we’re speaking, has gotten the message, to be thoughtful before you share online.

Intentional Vagueness

The problem is that the terms “appropriate” and “inappropriate” and intentionally vague – what one person deems appropriate online behavior might be considered inappropriate by another; an idea that was summed-up by Justice Potter Stewart in his concurring opinion written in the 1964 Supreme Court decision for Jacobellis v. Ohio about obscenity where he wrote “I know it when I see it”.

Training is Key

Businesses not only need guidelines, like a comprehensive Digital Engagement Policy for their employees when it comes to online sharing, but they also need to provide them with training.  Most of us were never “taught” social media, we simply adopted and adapted as new platforms appeared, making up our own rules for “appropriate” usage along the way. 

Employees, like it or not, represent, or are easily associated with their employers online. So, when employees make an “inappropriate” post, that unintentional social media faux pas can have a negative effect on the company at which they work.  Here are just a few examples:

  • CBS was deluged with international complaints when a freelance employee tweeted after the Manchester Arena attack to his personal following, “The last time I listened to Ariana Grande I almost died too.” Just hours after the tweet went viral, he was terminated.
  • A Netflix writer posts an ill-advised comment about an upcoming show, causing thousands to cancel their subscriptions to the service.
  • Even personal posts can quickly go viral. Donning her uniform, a woman posted “At work serving these rude a** white people.” When the post went viral, the firing was fast, but not before many customers said they would not return to the park at which she once worked.  


I always remind people that while you are free to make your own decisions regarding what you choose to post online, you must understand that with that freedom, comes consequences.  And for employees, who violate company social media usage guidelines or who cause an employer’s brand to suffer as a result of their actions, those consequences could lead to termination.

Just because you think something is fine to post, doesn’t mean that others who see it won’t be offended by it or think poorly of you (or your employer) because of it. 

Like it or not, in the 21st century, we are all judged (and we all judge others) to some extent based on what we see online. While we are free to express ourselves, we are decidedly NOT free from judgment or unintended consequences based on what we choose to share.

Most people don’t post anything with the overt intention of being inappropriate and many are surprised when they find themselves in hot water because of something they shared online.

Get Answers

Want to learn more about protecting your business or personal brand online?  Contact Echo70 today!

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