Until a number of my high school classmates began to plan our 40th reunion gala several years ago, I had successfully avoided Facebook® and the other social media (I’m still not too active). At their prodding, however, I created an account and began to post a few salient bits of biographical information. I even bravely included a few photographs. As planning for the gathering of the Class of ’69 progressed, thanks to social media, we were able to reach many more members of our class than for earlier reunions. Attendance was great; we all had a wonderful time. But alas, one of our classmates took somewhat less than flattering photos of some of our other classmates. The photos were posted and, viewed retrospectively, one of my friends was a bit embarrassed by his public display of frivolity.
That’s the way with social media; you go out, you get a little “happy,” and soon the world knows the brand of your favorite gin or scotch. “Smile, you’re on Candid Camera!”
As pervasive as social media is within our so-called modern world, it is inevitable that the phenomenon begin to have some effect within our judicial arena. In what appears to be the first reported workers’ compensation case involving Facebook®, an Arkansas court has held that it was not an abuse of discretion for a Workers’ Compensation Law Judge to allow the employer to introduce photos posted by the injured worker on his Facebook® page in spite of the worker’s contention that the use of such social media was “a disgrace to the dignity of the workers’ compensation proceedings and the legal system” and had nothing to do with his medical treatment [Clement v. Johnson’s Warehouse Show-Room, Inc., 2012 Ark. App. 17, 2012 Ark. App. LEXIS 18 (Jan. 4, 2012)]. The court noted that the worker contended that at a time contemporaneous with various Facebook posting, he was in excruciating pain. The posted pictures clearly showed him drinking and partying. The appellate court indicated that the photos could certainly have a bearing on the worker’s credibility and held that the judge’s ruling allowing their introduction into evidence was not an abuse of discretion.