If you are like most people who use Facebook, you probably enjoy reading about the good things that happen in the lives of your social circle, and you probably share the same type of information, photos and videos. In fact, a recent study found that the majority of social media users screen the photos they post online and only post photos in which they seem “socially desirable.” The study also found that social media users “are unlikely to capture shameful, regrettable or lonely moments with a camera.”1
Yet these same purposefully positive posts can be used as evidence against you in court. Because most people only post photos in which they appear happy on social media, it could hurt their case if they claim they are unhappy.
Emoticons and Birthday Wishes May Be Used Against You
Don’t think that photos and status updates are the only thing that can be used against you as evidence. All those birthday wishes from friends, family members, co-workers and people you are connected to may hurt your case as well. You may also want to stop using smiley face emojis.
Take for example, the case of a woman who was injured when her chair collapsed at work. The woman sued the manufacturer of the chair, claiming the collapse caused her to suffer a serious back injury that confined her to her home and caused her to suffer a loss of enjoyment of life. The manufacturer checked out the woman’s social media profiles and found that the woman regularly used smiley emoticons, indicating the woman was happy.2
In another example, a woman claimed she was a victim of gender discrimination after being fired from her job. She claimed in her lawsuit that she was wrongly terminated and experienced anxiety, anguish and isolation as a result. The company that fired her argued that dozens of friends had posted birthday wishes on the woman’s Facebook wall, showing the woman was not isolated.3
How to Keep Your Facebook Out of the Courtroom
If you are involved in any type of legal procedure, including a family law or criminal case, you need to be aware of your social media activity. Because of our experience in cases where social media is used as evidence, we at Wallin & Klarich recommend you take the following steps:
- Review your privacy settings and make sure only your closest friends and family can see your posts.
- Do not post updates or photos about what you are doing or where you are going. Even staged photos could cause a jury to doubt you.
- Do not talk about your case online
- Do not accept friend requests from people you don’t know.
- Tell your friends and family members not to tag you in posts or photos.
Be aware that no matter how much you tighten the security for your profile, you cannot control what your friends say or post about you. Also, it is possible that a judge will order you to turn over all posts, photos and videos from your social accounts. Therefore, the safest thing you can do to help your case is to deactivate your account as soon as you know you will be involved in a legal matter.
Share Your Feedback With Us
We at Wallin & Klarich would like to hear from you about this topic. Do you agree that our social media posts should be used in any court proceedings? What are some of the reasons you agree or disagree that Facebook activities accurately represent our daily lives? Please feel free to leave your comments below.
1. [http://connection.ebscohost.com/c/articles/90507728/risks-taking-facebook-face-value-why-psychology-social-networking-should-influence-evidentiary-relevance-facebook-photographs ]↩
2. [https://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=18098027376162664025&q=twitter+%22loss+of+enjoyment+of+life%22&hl=en&as_sdt=6,33 ]↩
3. [http://www.businessinsider.com/appearing-happy-on-social-media-is-increasingly-being-used-against-people-in-court-2015-5 ]↩