“Cool Instagram story bro. Like.”
“Ah man, dope picture. Gotta share it.”
“That one’s too spicy for my public account, but I can put anything out there on my finsta.”
Have any of those thoughts ever run through your mind while scrolling social media? Don’t tell me you didn’t know that a “finsta” is a “fake” (or friends-only) Instagram account, reserved for your closest friends, and that a “rinsta” is where you can front on Instagram for parents with tamer content.
Let’s be honest: You can get a lot of good feelings—even a kind of emotional rush—out of all the likes, loves and comments of social media. And sometimes it can even feel like what you’re doing and saying online is only for the moment, with zero consequences for your relationships or your future.
Well if you believe that, let me tell you a little story about what happened over the summer to 10 teens who got into some serious trouble on social media.
This past summer, Harvard College rescinded previous acceptance letters for 10 students who had been admitted as members of the Class of 2021. Their admissions were canceled because of their participation in a highly questionable private Facebook group chat set up by some of the prospective Harvard freshmen.
The key word there is private. The group chat and its posts turned out to be far more public than any of these teens realized at the time they were posting. Despite the belief that they were only communicating privately among other new classmates, someone took screenshots and shared those with Harvard administrators, including sexually explicit memes and messages targeting minority groups.
Let that sink in a minute. We’re not talking about publicly shared posts. We’re not even talking about posting under a fake name. We’re talking about a private chat group. But Harvard administrators were disturbed enough by what they saw to revoke the admissions of 10 of the students involved.
The Privacy Myth
How much do you think those 10 teens wish they could have those posts and photos back? Or wish they’d never even been invited to join the group? I can guarantee you they’d give about anything to get back in good with Harvard. Their college dreams were ruined over a few minutes of foolish activity on social media!
Let this be your rule online—because it really is that serious: No matter how private you think a post is, there’s always a possibility it could be seen by someone you didn’t intend to see it, and it could damage you in ways you didn’t anticipate.
Hear this, too. I realize you might think the school, your parents or even I am making too big a deal about all this social media drama. I get that. If you’re like me, you see social media as something fun—a cool way to connect with friends and have some laughs or to keep up with what’s happening. And it can be all of those things.
But too often social media can turn really ugly, really fast. Sometimes in the heat of the moment, our emotions get the best of us. The thrill of getting quick attention and likes from your friends, or even from strangers, is enough to stop you from putting as much thought and care into your words as you would use in real life.
So here’s another tip: Instead of sharing every picture you see on Instagram, posting every dope new video you find on YouTube, or following every celebrity under the sun, stop and think. I mean really think. Ask yourself, “How will this reflect on who I am and what I value and believe?” If what you’re posting and who you’re following still makes sense after you answer that question, then go on and post away!
I have a feeling that if the students who had their admission revoked from Harvard had thought about what they were sharing before they posted, they might have acted differently.
Every decision, every choice, every post you make becomes a part of your digital imprint for the entire world to see. Sometimes it even includes what you think is only going to a small, private group. That’s why it’s so important for you to be careful: Your future depends on the choice—the one choice—you make today.
If you’d like to see and hear more about the best ways to make positive use of social media, check out a vlog I created about it below and then come join the conversation over on our You Tube Channel HERE.
About the Author: Anthony ONEAL is one of Your Monthly Mentors. Since 2003, Anthony has helped thousands of students make good decisions with their money, relationships and education to live a well-balanced life. Now Anthony has joined Ramsey Solutions to spread this encouraging message to students nationwide as a Ramsey Personality. His youth conferences, concerts and events have drawn enormous crowds, and he’s spoken for some of the biggest names in the industry, including Bishop T.D. Jakes’ MegaFest Youth Ministry, television personality, Judge Glenda Hatchett and Rory Jones. Anthony has also appeared on Fox and Friends, CNN and TBN. Read more and check out Anthony’s other articles…
You can also check out and Subscribe to Anthony’s Awesome YouTube Channel here: https://www.youtube.com/anthonyoneal .