Protecting your reputation when standing up for your beliefs

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This article is not about whether or not anyone deserves to criticized online. It is about the threats that you as an individual and those you are responsible for can face by having actions misinterpreted or misrepresented on social media.

Pictures and videos have power. A picture or video that makes you look like you are involved in an “offensive” activity can put you at risk. The recent video of the high school students in Washington, DC is a good example. In an interview later, the student in the foreground of the video said that he wished he just walked away.

With the number of news and opinion outlets in both traditional and social media, there is a demand for content that can never be satisfied. The pressure to produce content is as much a supply and demand issue as a political issue. People (us included) demand up to the second news, opinion, and social drama. I am not being judgmental. I watch the videos of people falling down, and I get news notifications too. This is about how you can avoid being the target of social media.

You need to have a certain mindset when you are protesting or are present when others are protesting around you.

  • Assume that cameras are recording you
  • Think about how actions can be misinterpreted
  • There is the possibility of physical violence

You can be shown in the worst light. There are faith gatherings where people offer blessings by extending their right arm open-handed, and people have misrepresented that as a Nazi salute. A picture of someone in that stance can be easily misinterpreted or misrepresented. There are people out there who will use anything to further their view including hurting other people either physically or reputationally.

I am not saying that you should allow yourself to be bullied. Just be aware of the potential consequences and don’t take protests lightly. We need to be especially protective of our youth. We bring kids and teens to historic places, and it is important for them to participate in our political processes including protests. As counselors or chaperones, we need to be cognizant of what is going on around us, have a good understanding of the threats and move the kids away from the threats. If I, as an adult, want to stand my ground in a protest, that is my prerogative. Kids and teens whom we are responsible for may not know the consequences.

You may be saying that we should be able to stand for what we believe in without these consequences, we live in a free country. That’s true, you should be able to do it. Just as you should be able to walk safely in any neighborhood in the country or travel safely to any country in the world. You can’t. That’s life. You need to be cautious especially if you are chaperoning teens and kids. People are not above targeting them for their own gains. Continue standing up for what you believe but do not give people ammunition to destroy your reputation.

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