adam vincenzini

Participate responsibly: A social media warning label

‘Drink responsibly’. ‘Drive safely’. ‘Cross with care.’

These messages aren’t just aimed at protecting you, they are designed to help you protect other people.

Perhaps protect is the wrong word.

But, at the very least, these messages are in place to remind you that your actions can have a direct impact on the livelihood of others.

Now, I’m not going to suggest irresponsible social media behaviour can lead to some of the consequences of alcohol misuse or driving dangerously, but I’m not sure if people who participate in social media consider the implications of their actions on others.

Guess what? They really need to.

Access or Excess

We are lucky to live in an era where anyone can participate and be part of the information gathering and sharing eco-system that is social media.

You don’t need to be a trained journalist to have a blog. You don’t need a writing degree. You don’t need to know how to operate a complicated video camera.

You just set yourself up on some free platforms and get to it.

But I have lost count of the number of times this year where I have seen people publish questionable information.

Sometimes, it can be as simple as a publishing a misrepresented tweet from a live event.

Or, it could be an innocent assumption made in a blog post based on a google search of available information.

The point I am trying to make is that if you want to take part in social media and enjoy its benefits, you have a duty to act responsibly too.

Your ‘innocent’ claim, if believable enough, can create major reputational challenges for people connected to what you’ve said.

Brands are often the biggest victims of this behaviour.

But it is a real person who has to deal with the claims you are making, not a robot who will spit out an automated response.

How would you feel if the shoe was on the other foot?

What can you do?

For starters, get familiar with the ethics of social media participation. has developed a code of ethics adapted from Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics which is really useful.

Amongst the the blogging code (which can be read in full here) are three main pillars:

  1. Be honest and fair
  2. Minimize harm
  3. Be accountable
While I think the majority of social media participants act with these points in mind, many do not.
The onus is on each individual to participate in a way that adds legitimacy to the eco-system, not ruin it for everyone else.
Perhaps social media needs to come with warning label?

Or maybe, like a good bottle of wine, the good ones organically grow in stature over time while the others end up in the bargain bin.

What do you think?

What score out of 10 would you give yourself this year based on the criteria listed?

Can you improve in 2011?

Images courtesy of


  • geetarchurchy

    There have been people throughout the history of publishing who have misinterpreted or misrepresented data or information, I figure digital platforms give the likelihood of it occurring a greater possibility in both volume and frequency.

    I believe that the nature of people on the internet is intrinsically inquisitive, so facts will always be questioned, just as much as mistakes or outright lies.

    As Morrissey says, there’s always someone somewhere with a big nose who knows!

    The community will inevitably identify anyone who consistently gets it wrong, for ill or accident, and choose to ignore them or call them out.

    Thought provoking as ever 🙂

  • Joanne Jacobs

    I think there needs to be as much responsibility in *reading* as *contributing* content online. It is insufficient to simply accept what is written in blog posts, tweets or status updates as ‘proof’ of any practice. Particularly where there has been short form responses (comments or status updates) to content/issues delivered in other media/channels, there is always the possibility that ideas will be misinterpreted. For example:

    “interesting comments x on y. x seeking other employment. #eventtag”

    – what do you glean from this tweet? Does x blame y for his/her behaviour? Is x seeking other employment because of y? Are x’s career changes completely disconnected, but mentioned after x has complimented y?

    The point is that there is NO way of truly understanding what either the tweeter or the identities (x, y) mean in this tweet. It becomes the responsibility of the audience to challenge the tweeter. And even where a tweeter has intended what has been implied, it does not necessarily follow that those cited in status updates or in blog posts actually agree with content in tweets. Fortunately, in most cases of misunderstanding, these issues can be resolved through simple conversation. However, there is a tendency to be lazy in use of social media, with users just ‘accepting’ comments as gospel, without following up to clarify implications. In my opinion, this is a far worse sin than ‘irresponsible’ contribution. Language is fallible, and influencers are not always right. Critical analysis is a necessity, not a luxury of the information age.

    So while I agree there needs to be thought before contributing ‘too much information’ or revealing content that could directly affect an individual, there also needs to be some perspective here. If wikileaks has taught us anything, it is that transparency of business practice is essential. Rather than shooting the messenger, it becomes crucial for audiences to question ideas they are presented, and to respond appropriately.

  • sytaylor

    Can I improve in 2011? Yeah there is a lot of whitespace in front of me!

    Consistency, engagement and a clearer focus on what it is my blog is about. I like to think the posts there are readable, but it’s not yet somewhere to visit and get lost in oodles of content.

  • shanezj

    Definitely scope for improvement in 2011 – great post Adam! I would look at accountability being number one in the code. It ensures that as a blogger or a netizen it ensures what I put out in the eco-system is honest,fair and does good to all. As you have pointed out , it is also critical that people know what is ethical, what counts for responsible behavior online as more realize the power the online medium gives them to share information,their point of view. There are enough examples of flaming across online platforms based on questionable data and it never does any good. If more people pay heed to these points and correct those that go overboard, it is possible to improve the stature of social media participation over time.

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