Long before Snapchat and Facebook, going online via the buzz of the dial-up to use chatroom and forums in the late ’90s and early 2000s was a totally different experience to our online lives now. Chatrooms were an online social space in which our identities could be anonymous and distinctly separate from our real lives. You could be a jerk online under an alias and nobody would be any the wiser. Who could’ve predicted that our online and real identities would become so intertwined that our online activity could have serious real consequences for our lives? Gone are the days of making a social faux pas out on the town and being able to hide our shame in the safety of our own bedroom.
While the gossip mill has been in existence since the dawn of time, never has it been so accessible as with the rise of smartphones and social media. Whether you’ve added to the drama yourself by an accidental click on the wrong person’s photo, made the mistake of making your innermost thoughts public in a moment of weakness, or been caught out by your boss or ex-boyfriend somewhere you shouldn’t be, social media has the power to make or break our lives in a very real way. Getting tagged in an awful photo or being located via check-in somewhere you weren’t supposed to be are things nobody had to worry about twenty years ago — back when we hadn’t predicted just how much social media would interact with our real lives.
Here’s 14 ways making a social media mistake can make us want to crawl into a hole forever.
14. Waking up to the drunken Facebook status you wrote the night before
It seemed funny at the time — you were out somewhere with your friends and feeling more than a little buzzed. You vaguely remember the hilarious conversation that prompted you to think telling the online world your opinion on a particular topic (with a few spelling errors thrown in) was a liberating thing to do. After all, who wouldn’t agree with your brilliant statement Madonna’s boobs are my spirit animal? Or your angry rant that Donald Trump and (insert ex-bf here) have more than one little thing in common! Genius, right? While most of these moments can be written off as a little embarrassing and have happened to the best of us, just make sure you’ve checked your privacy settings and that potential or current employers aren’t on the prowl waiting to scrap you for a little harmless but unprofessional fun. Your online identity — even your drunken one — can reach a wider audience than you intended.
13. When you accidentally friend-request your ex’s new GF while stalking them
It’s practically mandatory these days to check out your ex’s new date or girlfriend via social channels. After all, who wouldn’t want to know how she measures up or whether she seems like a nice, nasty or otherwise person based on her selfies and social media posts? Rummaging the internet for information on the competition can be a dangerous game. While it can be successfully done without leaving a paper trail behind you, many unlucky stalkers have unwittingly hovered over the Add Friend button and by some mysterious power of the universe, accidentally clicked it with their own index finger. Then the panic sets in. What to do now? Canceling the request will only reveal your mistake because she’ll be notified via Facebook regardless. Her brow will furrow as she sees notification but that the button says Add Friend rather than Accept Request — a sure sign that you’ve bumbled and tried to cover your tracks. Rookie mistake.
12. That status saying you hated your job that led to a warning from your manager
Whether you’re working a crappy retail job unpacking boxes and boxes of $2 Christmas crackers, or you’re a high-powered accountant with a complete jerk of a boss who pushes you to work until 11 p.m. every night, social media can feel like a good outlet for about 1.5 seconds. Did you post a death-stare selfie with your work environment in the backdrop or a rant about how you can’t wait for holidays so you can get the hell out of there? You probably thought everybody on your friend list would understand, but don’t be surprised if there’s an inconspicuous colleague you accepted in there somewhere ready to rat you out to the boss. Snitch employees are far more common than you’d think and letting them catch you in a rebellious act can have very unpleasant consequences. Keep your rants about your job to yourself and reconsider accepting friend requests from your colleagues, lest you want someone spying on you for the company.
11. The Instagram picture of your ex that you liked waaay down their feed
So you’ve broken up but stayed friends online. Or maybe their Instagram is public and you know you really shouldn’t be looking but can’t help it. Getting caught up gleaning information online about what your ex’s life looks like now without you in it can be hazardous at best. While past break-ups once meant ceasing contact and only hearing snippets from time to time via friends-of-friends, social media has changed the game completely. Whether we want to or not, moving on can be hard when in our hot little hand we hold detailed information about the daily goings-on in our ex’s life. Reminiscing over the good times, checking out his new lover with seething jealousy, rolling our eyes at their stupid (but loveable) face — before you know it you’re miles and miles down their feed and have unwittingly liked a picture from three months ago. Again, there’s no way to erase your tracks as even unliking on Instagram doesn’t take away the notification sent straight to your ex’s phone. Cringe.
10. When you left your account open for people to destroy
Drunk friends, annoying siblings or parents who think they’re super clever — these are the usual culprits for the crime of busting your social media account and putting something daggy or very embarrassing on your page. Did you come home for the weekend to see your folks, login to the family PC and forget to log out? That would explain the I love my parents so much — they’re the best in the whole world status that your mom and dad thought was so clever. Or maybe it was your younger brother with something more uncouth — I’ve got the worst diarrhea ever — that raised a few eyebrows before you managed to delete it. The most snarky can usually come from your besties on a girls night — I just kissed six guys and don’t know which one to take home. Of course, these are just the humorous ones. Leaving your account in the wrong hands can have far more dire consequences if you’re not careful.
9. That time you were tagged in the most awful pic ever
Help! Where’s that setting where I get to approve photos in which I’m tagged before they appear on hundreds of newsfeeds to be scrutinized!? Maybe it was a nasty candid shot at a social event where you were just caught on a bad angle wearing a billowy dress. Maybe it was a group shot where the uploader knew they looked hot and you had to take the fall with your eyes half closed. Whatever the reason, we know when we look good and when we don’t. Unfortunately, other people don’t always see us in the same light (or they don’t care). What’s worse is when you forget to check your account for half a day and the photo has been up for hours and has got likes in the double digits, making you look like a killjoy for requesting it to be taken down. The best you can do is untag yourself and leave your unbecoming image to be circulated ad infinitum — and crawl into a hole.
8. That time you were tagged out on the town when you called in sick
There are times when telling the whole internet where you are is truly a satisfying experience. The time you landed in Paris, or snorkeled the Great Barrier Reef, or went to a super-expensive restaurant on a date. But location tagging can backfire when a thoughtless friend includes you in a batch tag of people out running amok when you should be at work. Okay, so it was a national holiday and your boss was unreasonable so you pulled a sickie to go to a music festival with a group of friends. Or you went home at 3 p.m. with a “headache” only to go drink cocktails at a new bar with your friend visiting from out of state who foolishly tagged you with a margarita in hand. Social media means it’s impossible to be sure we’re completely anonymous, and that we won’t be busted being somewhere we shouldn’t. Check out your settings to make sure this doesn’t happen to you!
7. When you post your status on the wall of the person you’re stalking
Have you got 45 tabs open, or maybe only 2? Either way, you were looking at somebody else’s page in one window and left it open. Then you came back and without scrolling up to confirm it was your own page, you threw in a status update that landed smack bang on someone else’s wall. Oops. Usually, this can be laughed off, especially if you were looking at a friend’s page. But what happens when it was the mysterious new person at your work who just accepted your request, or a long lost friend you fell out with, or an ex you claim to be totally over? Or — let’s face it — any other number of people you just wouldn’t really want to know you were spending your time stalking? Deleting the comment whip-smart might mean they don’t see the status, and hopefully will think it was just a Facebook error, right? Then again, maybe not.
6. When you copy and pasted that rant to the wrong person
Another classic Facebook mistake. Why are there so many people named Laura and Jessica? And why does everybody use their middle names instead of their last names on Facebook now? Instead of pasting a lengthy rant about how upset you feel about a personal issue to your best friend, suddenly you’ve sent it via messenger to that other woman who you only vaguely know with the same name. Darn it. There’s no real way to get out of this social media mistake, and depending on the content of your message, you may want to consider biting the bullet and fessing up to your mistake, or just unfriending said person and hoping you never see them again. If your rant was meant for one set of eyes only and dissed a bunch of mutual friends (or just one) or shared intimate details you really didn’t want anybody else to know, then maybe the latter is a better option.
5. That inappropriate status you wrote in a moment of weakness
No, you weren’t even buzzed at the time. Just sad, depressed, irritated or angry at a person or thing and decided to let off some steam. One of the best metaphors about social media — or Facebook specifically — is to think of Facebook as a crowded room. Before posting a heartfelt sob story or a status full of expletives, consider who the people in that room are and whether you would be comfortable to walk in and say the exact same thing to them in person. The chances are, you’d probably swallow your words. On the other hand, if you feel that Facebook actually gives you the courage to express yourself in ways you wouldn’t in public, then more power to you. Just make sure you ask yourself the question, “Will I regret this tomorrow?” If the answer is uncertain, hold off the public displays of emotion until the feelings inside you have dissipated a bit and you can think more clearly.
4. The personal pic you posted on the work account
Using social media for professional exposure is now an essential part of just about every business. Every store, service and product seem to have their own Facebook or Instagram pages, and if you run your own business, you’ve probably got at least one social media work account happening, or perhaps you’ve been given the password to your employer’s account to add updates from time to time. Either way, if you’re juggling more than one account on one device, mistakes can be easily made. Was it a silly selfie you accidentally posted on your work Instagram account, or a picture of you and your boyfriend snuggled on the couch? Was it a personal status update that had absolutely nothing to do with your business? This can be super embarrassing, especially if it’s picked up by your manager or a client before you notice it. The good news is that deleting this mistake is just one click away.
3. When you copy a convo and send it to that person!
This is the kind of mindless accident that can happen to the best of us. While accidentally letting things slip to the person they were concerning has always been a faux pas in social circles, smartphones make it just a click too easy. So your friend messed you around or did something hurtful and you found yourself wanting to vent about it to another friend via messenger. A quick copy and paste and your conversation can be sent to a second friend for sympathy. Hang on — you meant to send the convo to Michelle to show her what a jerk Elise was being, but you accidentally sent it to Elise instead! Omg. This is one of the big social media mistakes that cannot be undone. If the friendship is worth it to you, then it’s time to face the music and deal with it head on. If not, move on and cut your losses.
2. When you were tagged in compromising pictures
Kissing someone you shouldn’t be in the background of a photo, or even just being somewhere you shouldn’t be in the background of a photo; eating meat when you promised your partner you’d both go vegetarian (it’s happened!); or wearing a dress you borrowed from somebody that you swore you’d only wear to that one event and give right back — no doubt you can think of umpteen places and things you wouldn’t want to be caught being or doing. With the click of a smartphone anywhere, people all over the world are caught out everyday cheating, lying, etc. It’s one of the amazing things about social media and its power. Smartphones can actually be used to provide evidence in court and solve crimes and bust cheaters who should have been kicked to the curb long before. Just make sure that you’re aware that whatever innocent fun you’re up to, snapchat is never far away.
1. When you sent nude selfies to the wrong person on messenger
At one time, you likely never dreamed that you’d be the person sending nude selfies. I mean — that’s one step away from a sex tape, right? But with Tinder and other dating apps, a little nip-slip-pic is now seen as an acceptable way to flirt, and a topless shot is the perfect way to tell your partner you miss them. Sending pics to people you know and trust like a partner is fairly safe, so long as he’s not the jerk who’ll publish them live should you break up. But just know that if you do decide to send nude photos of yourself through the world wide web, there’s no going back, and they can end up in the wrong hands. Whether you accidentally send them to the wrong person (happens all the time), or they get passed on and come full circle to somebody you know that you realllly wouldn’t have wanted to see them, you might have to bury your head in the sand for a little while to come.