Public figures often rely on assistants to manage their social media accounts. This can lead to mishaps, and it has recently proved problematic in Utah politics.
Utah Senate President Wayne Niederhauser’s intern, who tweets on his behalf, tweeted a controversial joke involving gender change. Niederhause faced tremendous backlash for this tweet. He publicly clarified that his intern wrote it, and he responded to several accusatory tweets in an effort to smooth things over.
In light of this event, we asked BYU students if public figures should manage their own social media accounts. Here are their responses.
“People should be in charge of managing their own reputations. That’s the only surefire way to guarantee that you will convey the message that you actually believe is true.” — Bret Anderson, computer science, Weber City “I think you should have a pretty clear relationship with whoever’s managing your account. Personally, I wouldn’t let someone else speak for me. Something in my life that relates to this — I never let anyone play Flappy Bird on my phone, because I don’t want them to get a high score that I didn’t get. And it goes both ways, I try not to play on other people’s phones because I’ll get a higher score than they would, and then people will think they’re better at Flappy Bird than they really are.” — Ian Kershisnik, marketing, Colombus, Ohio “I understand that public figures are busy, so it’s probably necessary for them to have someone managing their social media accounts, but it becomes more personal and realistic if they do it themselves, and you can avoid mishaps. So, I think you have to find a balance and do it case by case.” — Sophy Londono, pre-business management, Buffalo, N.Y. “Political and celebrity leaders should be held responsible for the tweets on their accounts. If they want to have social media accounts, they should, but they should be held responsible for whatever goes up on those sites.” — Tom Gardiner, business management, Cedar Hills “Public figures should run their own social media accounts because it’s their own personal thing. For me, there’s celebrities I like a lot; you want to feel like you’re friends with them. I think they should run their own account because that’s a way they can connect with their fans.” — Karen Toone, public relations, Mesa, Ariz. “Public figures should have to monitor or look after their own social accounts because they are portraying their own public image. If someone else is managing their account, it’s an inaccurate portrayal of them, because it’s someone else that’s doing it.” — Charming Choi, psychology, Sydney, Australia “Public figures and celebrities should manage their own social media accounts, like Twitter or Facebook, just because if someone managing for you puts out something that’s controversial or doesn’t really represent you well, then it looks bad on you. If you’re managing it yourself, then whatever you put out is your words and you’re going to have to stand behind those.” — Billy Green, pre-business, Seattle, Wash. “People should be held responsible for their own social media networks as if it were themselves. If you’re going to have somebody else in charge of it, you should be held responsible for whatever’s on there, even if it was somebody else who typed it up. And I know the person who did that (Niederhauser’s intern) and she was really sorry about it; she didn’t think it was going to come off like that.” — Lais Oliveira, anthropology, Orlando, Fla. “I think he (Niederhauser) should be held responsible for what was on his social media account. Public figures need to be able to trust those who are representing them. And if he did hire that person to use his social media, then he should be held responsible for what they say.” — Christian Hughes, neuroscience, Grantsville “Social media is pretty fake anyway, so why should it matter if you have someone else managing your account for you?” — Traci Ream, family science, Malibu, Calif.