Social Media Responsibility and Ethics

Social Media Responsibility and Ethics

So the other day, I took some pictures (so what’s new?), except one of the chicks we were hanging out with wasn’t feeling confident about her looks.

There were some general shots that she happened to be in, but then when she was asked to specifically be in a pic (not with me, haha so let’s not start with the “Maybe it was YOU?” 😀 ), she declined, saying that she wasn’t photogenic.

* This actually happened to be incorrect, but that’s an image and self-esteem topic, having nothing to do with ethics…. *


So I had told the group I was going to share the pictures with them. When I reviewed the set the next day, I realized that there were a couple of pictures that the non-photogenic chick (I guess I’ll call her NPC) hadn’t “signed off” on.

Now, these weren’t Social Media people. I’m sure they didn’t imagine they were hanging out with someone whose blog posts get literally world-wide coverage. 99% of the people that I hang out with know that if they see ME and they see flashes going off, that the pictures are going to be on the internet, practically immediately. Being that these people weren’t aware of this, it became MY RESPONSIBILITY to be clear on which pictures were authorized by which people for what. It’s like being a bus driver. You’re responsible for your passengers. You can’t go all buck-wild with the driving. So I ended up with three categories of pictures:

  1. Pictures that were confirmed for personal use
  2. Pictures that were confirmed for public use
  3. Pictures that weren’t confirmed at all

This is one of the reasons I don’t take pictures of random people.

I don’t take pictures “to take pictures”. I’m not an “event photographer”. I’m not building a photography portfolio.

I take pictures to commemorate and broadcast good times that I have and the people that I share those good times with. Random pictures of random people mean absolutely nothing to me. Tagging the pics after the fact is probably 1/4 of the fun of the entire evening for me.


So I’m looking through the pics and sorting them into the categories. When I had them together, I sent a specific subset to this good friend of mine, this guy who was there and part of the evening and the pictures. What I sent him was [Pictures with him in them, posing]+[Pictures that the girls had signed off on for public viewing]. The reason I specify “posing” is that some pictures feature people in the background, or unaware that a picture’s being taken. Other pictures are clearly posed and everyone in the foreground is aware of the picture and interested in being in it.

I use a digital camera, so right after I take the shot, everybody gets to see how cute they look and sign off or veto the pic. Therefore, by the time I’m working on my sets, I’m already aware that I’m working from a good set of pictures that everybody likes, except in the cases where there are things you can’t see on the small screen that become apparent in the full-size image.

So I send him the pics, and he calls me and we’re talking about the evening. At some point, he brings up the fact that more pictures were taken than I sent him. I verified that I had a couple of pictures that NPC was in. His predictable response was “Send them to me!”…


I took a few seconds to attempt to formulate a smooth response, but I couldn’t figure one out, so I just said “Nah. Leave her out of it.” Next came the appeals to friendship and appeals to personal trust. Of course, those met the same response and then the topic was dropped. I could hear his disappointment over the phone, but there was nothing I could do about that. Somebody was going to have to feel sad in this situation, and he was clearly the lesser of the evils.

What I didn’t have time to explain to him in the few seconds before I vetoed his request was that he has no idea how far-reaching media is these days and I do. I’m sure he feels like he can put a picture on his website or some Social Media site and nobody will ever see it, because nobody’s “checkin’ for him” like that. Well… Maybe Google’s checkin’ for ya behind your back. Maybe people are randomly looking through pictures, hoping to find people. Maybe someone that you know houses your picture from your site and puts it on their site… or puts it on MySpace… or puts it on Facebook and TAGS IT! How about that?

So, basically, the issue wasn’t whether I could trust him as a friend or not. The issue is that I had a particular design in mind for the pictures that I took, and I’m the only one that I can trust to enforce that plan. To sidetrack for a second, it’s like sex. If you don’t want to get a chick pregnant, make sure you don’t spill any liquid on her. Similarly, if you want to maintain your integrity in a situation and live up to your own word to yourself, make sure you retain control over your media that hasn’t been earmarked for general consumption.

Unforgivable - Bill CammackSo, do I trust him as a friend? Yes. Do I trust him to maintain MY word about something? No. I can’t. It’s just stupid. On top of that, how about the people that HE trusts? How about the people that THEY trust? Once the “NOC list” is in the open, you have ZERO control over what happens to your media and might put people in compromising situations. If you spill in the chick, you can’t shake her up and down like the cartoons to get it to come back out…..

~Bill Cammack

Twitter: BillCammack
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  1. Totally agree Bill. I can’t remember how many Facebook photos I have untagged because people do not follow those simple rules. Also I’m astonished at how many people will let themselves be photographed and tag themselves doing activities that would make any employer or grown person with morals blush.


    1. Yeah man. It’s one thing to “get your pose on” and intentionally take pictures that are going to be scandalous-looking. It’s an entirely DIFFERENT thing to actually be DOING something scandalous and have someone take a picture of it… AND post it.

      Most of the time, however, I find that it’s not really that, but a simple matter of they don’t feel like they looked good in the picture. I do what I can to ensure that everyone comes off looking the best in the pictures I post and if I just can’t make it work, then I’ll leave the pic out.

      In a normal set, there are enough pictures of each person so that evidence of their participation won’t be obliterated by removing one bad-looking shot. Even if it does erase them, most people would rather not be represented than have what they consider to be an unattractive picture of themselves on the net.

  2. Thanks for sending me the link on Twitter for our upcoming Social Media Club Hawaii meeting. Your simple formula is a good one.

    Now, as your unpaid brand consultant, I would think if people did not know what an incredibly smart and genuinely nice guy you are (as I do!) they might think you are one “dating genius” (oh wait – you are that too) – based on on the sexy pics of you and your girls. Have you ever even taken a “straight” shot?

    LOL – of course.

    1. haha Thanks, Rox. Yeah, I rarely take pics by myself or “of” myself. 😀

      First of all, I already know what I look like, and second, they come out extremely posed for some reason hahaha

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