Social media has taken over our society with such force that it is revolutionizing the way our entire world operates. From advertisements to protests, social media has become the king of it all. In fact, our newfound reliance on technology expands past the realm of social media and into the dangerous area of text messages, too. Our society has developed a culture in which nearly everything we say or do is retrievable, and despite your naïve beliefs, very little, if anything, can be permanently deleted.
Gone are the days of fraternities attempting to provide us with their best “Animal House” impression. University officials have made it a priority across the nation to end the practice of hazing, mild alcoholism, and anything else that may follow the fraternity stereotypes developed by years of media scrutiny.
Despite the rampant crackdown on nearly every facet of fraternity life, there is one aspect of every Greek organization that is largely ungoverned, and brothers are given free reign to use or abuse as they please. I’m talking about GroupMe, Facebook, email, and text messages. A new era of Greeks rely on these technologies more than ever before. In the past, brothers haven’t had to worry about the repercussions of something sent innocently to another person in private. Technology has changed the game, and Greeks need to be prepared.
Greeks have been trained to fear a lot of things and individuals: lawsuits, university administrators, nationals, police officers, and dejected pledges just to name a few. Throughout our history, those listed have controlled our existence. However, while outside of their general realm of influence, we have had the freedom to act as asinine as we please. As social media begins to take over more of our communications, there is a new crowd that must be added to the list of people capable of bringing an entire fraternity to its knees: everyone.
Yep, you read that correctly. Everyone with a cell phone or Internet access has the power to end your chapter’s existence.
This website alone has already reported several instances of chapters that relied on technology where it eventually backfired. Several examples include Georgia Tech’s Phi Kappa Tau email scandal, the racist Facebook post from Louisiana Tech’s Kappa Sigma, and another leaked email from William and Mary’s Sigma Chi. The repercussions of the newest development in American culture have already started happening, and chapters across the country are feeling the aftermath.
Screenshots are your chapter’s worst enemy. As easily as you can send out your ex-girlfriend’s kinky nudes, she can send out a screenshot of a racist post made in your fraternity’s “secret” Facebook group that you sent to her months back. If you think about the amount of communication within your chapter that is processed by these various mediums every day, you’ll better understand how easily one slip can wipe years of history off the map.
Surely, you use GroupMe, a Greek staple for intra-chapter or pledge class communication. You most likely also use a Facebook group and a listserv for discussion conducted among a larger audience of brothers. Maybe you use Google Docs for rush or parties.
One night you were blackout drunk and needed a ride home from the bar. Instead of simply calling a pledge, you texted him, while intertwining some of his vulgar nicknames and threatening to inflict some brutal methods of hazing for good measure. Several weeks later, the pledge gets cut from his class and sends your “degrading” texts to the national organization in an attempt to strike back. You’re screwed.
Every single method of communication I have mentioned can easily be saved and dispersed to infinite recipients before you ever have a clue there is a leak.
One VERY high profile example of this happening recently is the Donald Sterling case, which has been plastered across the media for months. While what he said was well within his first amendment rights, the NBA has a certain public imagine it must uphold. He is entirely free to make as many racial comments as he pleases; however, the NBA is not required to simply ignore his remarks.
The same example can be said for the Louisiana Tech Kappa Sigma brother responsible for the Facebook post. Legally, he is in the clear. However, his university and national organization are also within their rights to sanction him and/or his chapter for the post.
Your biggest enemy will most likely never be law enforcement or the government, but rather your own national organization and school. They have a certain standard that they hold their chapters and students to, just as the NBA has certain standards for its owners. Should you fail to meet those (usually fairly low) expectations, prepare to face possible discipline.
Overall, the point I want to drive home is to protect yourself and protect your fraternity. Just because something is acceptable within your chapter, it does not mean the general public will agree. It is absurdly easy to leak what is presumed to be private information, so keep yourself and your brothers within reasonable levels of appropriateness in your conversations and you will be safe.
Private settings hold no water anymore. ANYTHING can end up in the wrong hands.
Although social media has not yet seen itself reach the forefront of the fight against Greek life, it is slowly making its way to the head of the pack and is taking no prisoners along the way.
Stay safe, boys.