Image in the age of social media

WADE FULLERTON
STAFF WRITER

In the age of new media – a greater connected world – social platforms resurface unpleasant past events of popular officials in an ever-expanding, modern society. The well maintained image of public officials and well known people has become the focus in a time of instant public response.

A negative public image in the media can end careers and permanently tarnish one’s professional reputation. In the dawning age of a more connected world, the importance of maintaining a clean record remains a higher priority than any other time in history.

Ralph Northam – governor of Virginia – was called to resign from his office after a photo turned up of Northam showing two photos, one of him dressed in blackface and the other wearing a Ku Klux Klan robe and hood.

The photo of Northam appeared in a collection of photos from his East Virginia Medical School yearbook, taken in 1984. Northam made a public apology the day the photos gained national attention, but by then the damage had already been done.

In the age of social media, maintaining a clean public image and providing the most acceptable public responses to media scandals has been given a higher emphasis. This is due to the rise of a greater connected public eye of government officials. In the era of mass media, the security of burying the past has become less likely to stay in the past.

“It is hard to keep secrets or times that you regret now because eventually, people will find out,” said Dani Ribadeneira (‘19).

Because we live in a vastly different world with increasing connections, the way we use social media has changed drastically. The importance of being responsible on the internet has significant negative consequences for those that have made poor decisions in the past.

“A topic that I go over in class when it comes to social media is that any sin you may have committed as young person, no matter how long ago it was or much you’ve changed, or learned since then can be unearthed and brought back to haunt you,” Lauren Woolbright, Assistant Professor of New Media Studies.

The media provides a channel for more unpleasant actions of present political leaders to resurface and place into question the validity of their profession. The age of modern media allows new accessibility to public opinions through the outlet of the internet.

“Regardless of where we live, we all can have a direct impact on social media,” said Woolbright.

Regardless of where one might live in the United States, the image of a public official has become instantaneous. Public response to a public official has become faster, and from further distances, than any other point in history.

“Our connection through social media is instantaneous, and the response to any given tweet can be immediate,” said Woolbright.

Internet scandals decimate the reputation of a public official but rarely do politicians step down because of their past being levied against them.

“Seeing this from the perspective of someone who is not from the United States, this country is very diverse in ethnicities. I would not want to live in a country where a political leader is sympathetic to a racist organization,” said Ribadeneira.

“I hope that people … have learned something because media scandals will keep coming,” said Woolbright.

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