What a world we live in today with all of this mainstream, real-time information sharing about our lives.
Back when I was growing up in the 1990s, this sort of technology was being born. When I started elementary school in 1997, e-mail was just starting to hit the mainstream, internet connections were still reliant on a phone line, and children our age didn't know how to use any of this crap yet. If we wanted to talk about what we watched on WWF Raw or what the coolest new PlayStation game was, we sat down next to each other in the lunchroom and we talked face-to-face about it.
The same went for the wrestling world. The "dirt-screens" that we know today were just rumor mills full of rampant speculation and there was rarely any instant confirmation to rumors, if ever (come to think of it, the same applies for today's dirt-screens). If a wrestler ever said anything controversial, we rarely ever heard anything about it. The quips were often dealt with backstage, an apology was sometimes issued, and that's all we really heard of it.
As we entered and progressed through the new millennium, everything started to change with the advent of chat rooms and social media sites such as Xanga, Friendster, MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and whatever else is out there. Instant life updates had become a reality, revolutionizing the importance of the internet for the younger generations. Friends could talk to each other literally any time they wanted, day or night. They could also tell everyone about either the most significant or most insignificant moments of their lives whenever they felt like it.
The times were changing, but the changing times also brought on a multitude of risks, and those risks have reared their ugly faces yet again today with the discovery of some unsettling posts on Zahra Schreiber's Instagram account.
There is one thing that we need to remember about social media, and this goes for anyone that uses it (you, your neighbor, your favorite (and least favorite) wrestler(s), or absolutely anyone for that matter): ANYTHING you post on social media will stay on social media forever, even if you delete the post immediately afterward. Hell, even if you posted a racy or offensive post back in 2010, a sharp-eyed user can find this post, and you will face the consequences.
For a couple years of my life, that was my actual job. The digging down takes a great deal of time. A user may have thousands upon thousands of posts, but it only takes one to completely ruin your career and even your life. It doesn't even matter if that one post is buried within 49,999 others. There are ways that these posts can be instantly found without drilling through each and every post. I've done it before, and anyone with an internet connection has the power to do it.
And once one incriminating post is found and publicized, good luck trying to defend yourself.
This is especially the case for anyone involved in a publicly active company such as WWE, who is still trying to portray an image of family-friendliness and equality (this can be debated another time; this is not the point of this post). If a wrestler posts a controversial post on Twitter or Instagram, then they should expect to face the consequences. If one thinks that they're out of danger when they touch that delete button, then they are horribly mistaken. A user can take two seconds and take a screenshot of the post with something as quick as the Snipping Tool on Windows or its equivalent on Mac.
After a screenshot is taken, it can VERY EASILY be uploaded onto a website. After that, all hell can potentially break loose.
This is exactly what happened to Zahra Schreiber, and it has happened to countless others in the past. For some, it has cost them the opportunity for the job of a lifetime (Jessica Havok's racist tweets come to mind). For others, it has caused them to get fired from their jobs or even face criminal charges.
Social media has absolutely revolutionized the way we communicate with our idols and vice-versa. Gone are the days where we send handwritten fan mail to an address and hope for a response that never comes. Nowadays, we can just tweet an innocent question to one of our idols, and they may just reply with an answer. It does work the other way with our idols giving us a glimpse into their real lives and how similar they can be to us common folk.
With this great power does come great responsibility. Although we do have the right to free speech, it does not guarantee us the right to a career. A career, my friends, is a privilege that we all must earn and cherish. We cannot abuse our rights in a public forum as it may just lead to the revocation of a privilege that one may have worked their entire life for. For Zahra Schreiber and countless others throughout the world, they have learned or will be learning this lesson the hard way.
The lesson here? Just think before you post. It's that simple.