The legal repercussions of looking "too happy" on Facebook
By now we’ve all learned to carefully monitor our social media feeds in order to prevent public shaming or potentially ousting ourselves from jobs that we’ve yet to start working at, but now there’s another thing to worry about: how your online persona affects you in the court of law. Those involved in civil and criminal cases can and should expect their Facebook, Twitter, etc. to be mined for any evidence that might derail their standings in the eyes of a judge.
Consider the case of Casey Anthony who was discredited after photos surfaced of a “grieving” mother after her daughter went “missing” or Kathleen Romano, a New York woman who claimed to not only be bedridden after falling off a defective chair, but whose argument was rejected after she was shown posing happily outside her family’s home.
Quantifying the “loss of enjoyment of life” might be something that both social media experts and legal scholars will have to puzzle out amongst themselves. One New York judge defines it as "The capacity to enjoy life — by watching one's children grow, participating in recreational activities, and drinking in the many other pleasures that life has to offer — is unquestionably an attribute of an ordinary healthy individual.” However, a paper published in a Connecticut law journal posits that "evidence from email and SNS has a greater chance of unfairly prejudicing and misleading a jury”. Sure your tweets and status updates are straight from the source (you), but they might also be heavily edited. People tend not to like users who post constant negative updates. While constantly posting “Morrissey lyrics” or millions of “:(“ might be great for your legal case, it also makes you less attractive and socially desirable to your peers. Hence why so many of us curate our accounts so heavily, in order to be our most charming self and to cultivate feelings of FOMO in others.
Until courts are able to understand and take a more nuanced approach to what we publicly share, maybe it’s time to take a moment to think about what you share online, and to carefully scrub your profiles before committing any wrongdoings.