Social media is arguably the most powerful tool currently circulating in our society. Whether you use it for marketing, networking, business or personal pleasure it’s a part of our daily life. For me, I use it for all of the above – every single day of the year. I spend hours a week ensuring that what I post is aesthetically pleasing to the eye and that my followers gain something by reading the caption / link attached.
Recently, an incident occurred that I wanted to bring to light in hopes that you will never find yourself in a similar position -- or, if you do, you will know the proper steps to take.
I was sitting in the middle of a work lunch when I got a Facebook notification from an acquaintance that I hadn’t spoken to in well over a year. Intrigued by what she could possibly have to say, I threw my table manners aside and opened up the message. To my surprise I saw the words “Cosmetic Dentistry” plastered next to my smiling face. I thought to myself “what in the bleep is this?!”
New web browser opens: Yoursmilebecomesyou.com appears
I see the below.
At first I thought HEY! THAT’S ME! and then I thought wait, that’s me…
As I sat there staring at the website like a deer in headlights I didn’t know what question to ask first. How did they get my picture? Where did they get my picture from? Is that legal? Shouldn’t they have asked my permission? Do I call them? Do I call my mom? Do I call anyone? Am I being a baby for feeling completely freaked out that my face is being splattered across a major association’s website without my consent?
For the record: I have never, ever, had any version of cosmetic dental. This smile of mine is au naturel and I would like to take this moment to thank my parents for blessing me with it.
Once I cooled down I put my business hat back on and broke down the appearance of this matter. Here I am, an author of a blog and face behind a growing brand with a smile to reflect my positive outlook on life. How in the world is it going to look to have a young woman who consistently preaches positive life reminders yet hides the “fact” that she went under the dentist’s drill.
To be honest, before that moment I had never given serious thought to safety issues when it comes to social media. All of my social media accounts are public: Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook, Pinterest – you name it, you can see it. I let my followers into my life on a daily basis. From traveling across country to visiting my boyfriend to candid moments with my best friends. From huge career steps and everything in between-- it’s all there when you type in @MillennialMiss. The thing is, I want it to be there. There as in my social media platforms or the sites I've given permission to use my image and link back. But not to a company that has ripped my picture off my photographer's Pinterest page without acknowledging me as a person, let alone asking for my consent.
So I did something that I had never done before in my entire life – I called a lawyer. After I brought him up to speed, he hardly batted an eye lash before telling me that using my photo to promote cosmetic dentistry without my permission was against the law. The following day we dove head first into procedural steps to file a lawsuit.
To be crystal clear – this post is not about me standing up for my rights as a person let alone a person with a brand attached to her name but instead I want to take this unfortunate situation and use it as an opportunity to provide some simple tips on how to stay safe on the internet. The truth of the matter is, you never know where your picture may end up. Scary thought, huh?
I know that to the naked ear this all may sound a bit silly, but social media holds a lot of power. It is crucial that we, as women, know how to protect ourselves.
Combining research with personal experience, I have compiled a list of tips of safety measures to take when using social media:
1. When creating social media accounts make sure to use a password that is stronger then your pets name. Use a password that no one would be able to crack and keep it private!
2. Provide minimal information about yourself as possible and stay away from publicly listing your address. Always double think when filling out these forms, what wouldn’t you want a complete stranger to know?
3. Even though ‘check ins' are of the norm, be cautious of when you do so. Tagging your exact location (i.e: where you’re brunching) in real life gives a further glimpse into your whereabouts which, can lead to someone easily following you. Enjoy your time with the ones you’re with and save your posting for afterwards.
4. If you tend to use a public, work, or friend's computer log out of your social accounts after each use.
In hopes this post served as an eye opener to consistently be mindful of what you post online and that every single one us is entitled to exercise our rights.
Chelsea Briche runs the popular blog The Millennial Miss. A platform for young women surviving their twenties with grace and a lot of humility. The platform is Chelsea's "pledge to you, the ones who haven’t quite figured it all out yet. That we, together, will immerse ourselves in every single thing possible; explore, love a lot, love a little, and never touch the ground."