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Why Social Media Can Make You Poor (and Unhappy)

Who isn’t on social media these days?

Its all well and good if social media is bringing us value and enriching our lives, but for many it’s doing exactly the opposite.

While social media can be an excellent tool and unbeatable resource, its also the perfect forum for people to present a carefully tailored and edited version of themselves, accompanied by only the best corrected and enhanced selfies.

Social media is like the high light reel of peoples lives. All of the best moments, and very few, if any, of the lows. And yet even though we all know this, we are still human, and we still compare. And a huge amount of the population is left wondering why their friends lives are so beautiful and exciting, and theirs isn’t.

The world of social media is designed to keep you wanting. Wanting for what others have, or simply wanting for more in general.

None of which leads down a path full of happiness.

If that isn’t enough to keep you mindful of your presence and time invested in social media, how about the fact that it has an uncanny ability to truly destroy your financial stability. In a moment.

I was recently reminded of this when I saw a photograph that went somewhat viral.

It was an image of a supervisor in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police shoving a rather large eggplant into his mouth, while wearing his uniform. I don’t think I need to get overly detailed about what exactly he was replicating with the eggplant (pretty sure you can piece that together for yourselves). Bottom line – it was not a flattering photograph. For him, or the organization he works for.

For those not familiar with the RCMP, they are the national police force in Canada. And currently, they aren’t enjoying the best media image. Allegations of unprofessional conduct, gender and sexual harassment have been plaguing them for a number of years. This photograph isn’t exactly going to help them with their claims that things are improving.

The photograph was clearly taken in an office setting. Probably in a location the supervisor thought was private – or at the very least, out of the public eye. But it wasn’t private, because that photo got distributed to other people, through various forms of social media. And now that photo is splashed all over the internet and local media, and has the distinct privilege of being the the first image that pops up when you google the terms “RCMP” and “eggplant”. (I know you are all googling it right now…..go ahead, I’ll wait.)

So let’s break down where this went oh so very wrong for this man.

Stupid mistake number one, shoving an eggplant in your mouth (in that particular fashion) while in your workplace. Doesn’t seem overly professional or supervisory. Probably not the beat call.

Stupid mistake number two. And this is a big one. Letting someone take a photograph of you doing something unprofessional, thereby allowing it to be permanently recorded.

Stupid mistake number three. Trusting that the person who took the photograph would do absolutely nothing with said photograph. Like let’s say…… send it to a few “trusted” friends. Who might then send it to a few more “trusted” friends. Who then might think it’s either funny or offensive, and either which way decide to share it on social media so more of their friends can check it out.

So definitely some bad decisions on the part of the guy in the photograph.

But now we’ve established that he’s a bit of a moron, let’s now consider the consequences this guy is likely going to face because of these stupid decisions he made.

1 – There is an extremely high likelihood that he will be docked pay for this. Docking pay is a disciplinary measure that is internally available to the RCMP, and they can dock upto a couple weeks of pay quite easily. If you are a person living pay cheque to pay cheque, losing an entire two weeks of pay could have some pretty significant consequences on your financial stability.

2 – Although less likely, but still a possibility due to the current climate of that particular organization, they may decide to make an example out of this supervisor. An unfavourable discharge (aka: being fired) would have massive financial implications, particularly depending on his years of service. If he hasn’t reached full pensionable service, he would have to accept a heavily penalized pension or a buy-out, costing him hundreds of thousands of dollars over his lifetime.

3 – In terms of future consequence, I think it’s pretty safe to say that even if he doesn’t lose his job, this particular supervisors career trajectory is likely to plateau moving forward. Depending on the number of years that are left in his career, no further promotions will equate to tens of thousands of dollars of lost income, or even hundreds of thousands. Not to mention that as a government employee, his pension is determined by his best five years of annual salary. Indexing, or cost of life allowance is then calculated annually upon that base pension amount. So no promotions means a lower base pension, and the compounding effect of starting at a lower pension rate when you factor in the indexing will equate to a lot of lost income.

4 – In terms of seeking future employment, guess what image is going to pop up when a prospective employer googles his name? Not exactly the first impression you want to make with any credible employer, and not likely the impression that is going to land you the job. Cha ching. Those costs just keep piling on.

And that’s just a short list of SOME of the bigger financial consequences this guy is likely to face. We haven’t even touched on the ripple effects any of those consequences may have, let alone any of the personal or emotional consequences that may result.

Which leads me to the big question. Are all of those consequences proportionate to what he did? Does he deserve that degree of penalization for being a bit of a moron? For having a momentary lapse in judgement?

I dont know about you, but I really don’t think so. Some may disagree with me, and say that it was unprofessional, inappropriate workplace conduct and deserving of consequences. Maybe. But haven’t we all been guilty of momentary lapses of judgement in our lives? Made comment’s or joke’s that if taken out of context and plastered on all our friends FB pages might leave us looking less than professional?

We’ve all had moments in our lives that we wouldn’t want to see displayed on the front page of our local newspaper. The difference is our moments haven’t been recorded and subsequently gone viral. Lucky us.

10 years ago this wouldn’t have even been a thing. Largely because the ability to instantly distribute information to a massive audience simply wasn’t available to anyone with a phone and a free WiFi connection. 10 years ago, this story never would have been a story because no one would have cared.

Fast forward 10 years, and now we are talking about major impacts on this man’s livelihood and future financial capability. Thanks in large part to social media.

There are tons of examples like this out there. People have lost their jobs for comments that didn’t “align” with their employers image. It happens all the time. To regular, everyday people.

It only takes a moment. A stupid decision, comment or action captured and distributed on social media can now have life long implications that could truly destroy one’s pursuit of financial freedom.

The reminder in all of it, is that none of us are immune from this. Privacy is not what it once was, and that is simple the reality, for better or for worse.

In a day and age when you never know when or where you might be recorded, we should all be just a little more mindful about our words and actions.

We simply can’t afford not to be.

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