Unintended Consequences of Social Media

As discussed in previous posts, social media can have unintended and far-reaching impacts on your daily life.  We discussed how Facebook posts can influence a job search , but what are some other potential outcomes or consequences of social media posts?

Insurance Claims

Insurance companies may use social media to evaluate claims for damages and instances of fraud resulting in claim denials and potential prosecution. In 2014, a person in Ohio stated she fell at work.  However, she posted on social media that she fell at a gas station.  She was consequently charged with and convicted of filing a false claim, a misdemeanor (Johnson, 2017).

Disability Status

In 2014, two members of Congress encouraged the Social Security Administration (SSA) to consider social media posts when determining disability eligibility.  The SSA responded that their investigators and judges are not trained to evaluate social media posts and should instead focus on facts presented in each case.  However, as the SSA comes under increased financial pressure, the scope of information considered for claims may broaden to include social media activity (Dinan, 2014).

Solving Crimes

Social media posts are used to solve crimes. In 2016, a man on spring break in Alabama was recorded throwing a football at police attempting to control the crowd. The police department was tagged in a video, discovered the thrower’s identity, and used social media to let him know an arrest warrant had been issued (Eidam, 2016).

In 2010, a small group stole a Wayne Gretzky collector edition jersey from a store.  Within 15 minutes, the store compared the video footage of the crime with people who had liked the store Facebook page and were able to identify the thieves (“Can the Police Use Facebook to Investigate Crimes?” 2017).

Community Policing

Increasingly, police departments are creating and maintaining a social media presence to help with policing efforts.  Descriptions of vehicles or surveillance footage from a crime are posted to social media sites in an effort to outsource the identification of people of interest.  Some police departments are posting active warrants and maps of fugitive search areas on Facebook as well.

In the ever-changing online landscape, social media will continue to influence various aspects of our lives.  When using social media, assume what you post will be public and understand your posts may have far-reaching consequences.


Johnson, D. (2017, March 24).  Benefits of Surveillance, Social Media in Workers’ Comp Claims Investigations.  Retrieved from Claimsjournal.com at: http://www.claimsjournal.com/news/national/2016/03/24/269647.htm

Dinan, S. (2014, April 8). Lawmakers Urge Broad Snooping Powers for Social Security Administration.  Retrieved from The Washington Times at: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/apr/8/social-media-snooping-encouraged-ferret-out-bogus-/

Eidam, E. (2016, April 4). Police Use Social Media as a Front-Line Tool in Fighting Crime.  Retrieved from Government Technology at http://www.govtech.com/social/Police-Use-Social-Media-as-Frontline-Tool-in-Fighting-Crime.html

Can the Police Use Facebook to Investigate Crimes? (2017, March 15).   Retrieved from Government Technology at: http://www.govtech.com/public-safety/can-the-police-use-facebook-to-investigate-crimes.html