by JORDAN BROCKWAY
The Two-Face Nature of Social Media
A new generation of people are being faced with one of the most difficult forms of social behavior in a century. Social media has become an outlet to many for vocalizing their opinions to others, posting fun pictures from family vacations or just escaping their real-world problems by simply scrolling through different feeds.
This imaginary window into the lives of others can be extravagant, motivating, enjoyable, and detrimental. An increasing amount of people are learning the hard way what posting on social media can do to their reputation, appeal to others, and in some cases even their career. Social media can be incredibly impactful whether for better or worse.
Each day nearly 500 million tweets are posted online through the popular social media app Twitter. That means nearly 6,000 tweets are sent every second. Twitter does their best to monitor each tweet for profanities, inappropriate content, and offensive material but it can be difficult to remove each one based on the enormous quantity. It is the user sending the tweet however, that is not always considering how others will interpret the tweet they are posting. While the post may be relevant to an issue happening in today’s world, there is usually little to no consideration about how it may come across years later.
26 year old Iowa State alumni Carson King is the most recent case showcasing the devastating effect your past social media behavior can have on your life years after. While attending the annual rivalry football game between the University of Iowa and Iowa State University, Carson was spotted in the front row of the nationally televised show College Gameday. College Gameday is one of the most watched programs on Saturday afternoons, with an average of almost 2,000,000 people being tuned in at any given time during the broadcast. Calvin used the popular electronic payment app Venmo, to advertise his account for donations to purchase more of his favorite beer Busch Light.
His expectations were quickly blown out of the water as he saw his account surge with payments quickly raising nearly $1,000 within the first 2 hours of the broadcast. Realizing that this was going to be a much bigger success than he ever dreamed, Carson quickly reached out to the news explaining that he would now be donating the entirety of the money that he raised to the University of Iowa Stead Children’s Hospital to support the life saving cancer research operations being conducted just outside the football stadium.
Through the power of social media, Carson went viral across every platform of social media imaginable. Busch Light and Venmo quickly learned of the development and told Carson that whatever balance he ended with at the end of September would be matched by each of them. Additionally, Busch Light surprised Carson with a tweet notifying him that they would be providing him with a year’s supply of his favorite beer along with the release of a special case of Busch Light with Carson’s actual picture printed on them. The total currently sits at just above $600,000, meaning that with the matching donation Carson has raised almost $1.8 million for the children’s hospital of Iowa City.
This story has captured the hearts of the nation, and helped many understand what it means to turn an unexpected success into an opportunity to help others. This is a prime example of how social media can be an increasingly effective tool for philanthropy, social causal movements, and humanitarian work. Unfortunately for Carson, this would be the end of his good news in relation to the planned donation.
After settling into his recently found fame, Carson sat down for interviews on Good Morning America, The Today Show, The Late-Night Show and some local stations here in Iowa. It was not until his interview with The Des Moines Register that King learned just how much can be found on the internet. As part of the regular process of The Des Moines Register, an extensive background check is done before publishing a story exclusively about them. Reporter Aaron Calvin was in charge of writing the story covering Carson’s national heroism. Upon review of Carson’s twitter, Calvin was able to dig up tweets from nearly eight years ago, when Carson was only 16 years old.
The tweets were deleted by King years prior to Aaron sifting through social media, but were still uncovered by the investigative journalist. After being confronted about the tweets by the newspaper, King made a public announcement displaying tremendous remorse for his actions and a deep regret for the mistakes he made. He explained that while he could not unpublish the posts, he has changed and matured a lot in the last 10 years and has become a better person through it all. This development only infuriated the people of Iowa, not towards Carson King, but towards reporter Aaron Calvin.
Many questions why Calvin dug so far back into King’s past to find these social media excerpts. The most popular opinion being that Calvin sought out to find one of King’s flaws in order to publish an article that would also go viral making him equally as famous as King. The man who discovered the true side of America’s kindest soul if you will. Even if this was not the intention of Mr. Calvin, the nation noticed. Hundreds of thousands of tweets flooded the internet the day the story was published and the interview by King was released aggressively attacking Calvin for what he had done.
From all over the country, supporters of King’s actions were expressing hatred and malicious intent towards the reporter. The final straw came with the purest form of irony imaginable. Millions of Americans began to investigate Calvin’s twitter account and were absolutely shocked at what they found. Tweets containing things like “Fuck the NYPD”, “Cops are the scum of the earth”, and even tweets containing the N-word were found. Upon this discovery, Twitter began to explode with hateful and hypocritical messages exclusively directed at Calvin. The Des Moines Register has placed Mr. Calvin on leave while they investigate how to proceed further. The hashtag #StandWithCarson is now trending through twitter at an increasing speed.
Both the individuals mentioned in the story above are key examples of the two sides that social media offers everyone. On one side, the opportunity to promote a cause they believe in and make a difference in the places they live. On the other, the devastating impact a post from the past can make on the present. There is no way to predict how the things you say today or this year will affect you eight years in the future. The same goes for posts on social media. Carson and Aaron at the time of posting, probably had no idea the impact those 140 characters could make on their lives when they hit send. Not to mention times change and somethings were more acceptable to say.
Once it’s posted, it becomes the whole world’s property, whether it is deleted or not. The lesson of thinking before posting is as old as social media itself, but my hope is that in light of these events people will start to more closely examine the messages they are trying to exclaim before they display it to the world. Rather than deleting and hoping nobody finds it, consider just not posting in the first place. To Carson King and Family, thank you for all you are doing for the Children’s Hospital in Iowa City regardless of what anyone else thinks.