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Real vs. Online


Social media has proven to be a transformational tool that allows us to learn about the latest happenings in our network and the world in which we live. Conversely, social media can also magnify the poor choices we occasionally make when we compound those poor choices by communicating them to the masses or making inappropriate comments on our social media platforms.

The persona we create online can differ significantly from what we actually do and value in real life. As we’ve seen, occasionally fraternity members try to embody the pop-culture defined stereotypical machismo “Frat Guy” in their online posts and commentary. The content for many satire websites are populated by users who embrace this persona. Psychologist John Suler describes this phenomenon as “The Online Disinhibition Effect,” the process by which people exhibit behaviors online they would not normally exhibit in the real world. Popular online comic John Gabriel created the below cartoon interpretation of this disinhibition effect.

Source: Image adapted from https://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2004/03/19

Moreover, increasingly, members are engaging in insensitive, inappropriate, and sometimes offensive discussion in online chapter discussion forums, such as GroupMe. As most people should know by now with the lessons from Snapchat, nothing posted on the internet is confidential.

Several chapters and their members just this semester have had to talk with General Fraternity staff, University officials, alumni advisors, and even the media about ill-advised GroupMe messages they posted in their chapter’s or candidate class GroupMe.

This semester alone several chapters and individual members have fallen prey to this pitfall. Thinking they were sending private messages, members quickly found themselves exposed in national spotlight when inappropriate comments were shared publicly. They never stopped to think about what could happen if their messages were discovered by others, which they inevitably are. These students learned an important lesson the hard way: once you send a digital message, regardless of the platform, you have lost of control of what happens to that content. As many have learned, the ramifications can follow you for the rest of your life.

It is up to each of us to do our part to uphold the values and reputation of the Legion of Honor – in our real and online lives.

© 2015-2022 Sigma Nu Fraternity, Inc.
9 North Lewis Street, P.O. Box 1869, Lexington, Virginia 24450
Phone: (540) 463-1869 | Fax: (540) 463-1669 | Email: headquarters@sigmanu.org

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