'Think of social media as a virtual resumé,' expert warns in light of health board resignation

A communications expert was surprised to learn a member of the new Saskatchewan Health Authority board stepped down because of social media posts.

Flagged Facebook posts cost Don Rae seat on new Sask. health superboard

Don Rae says he regrets sharing this post on his Facebook page. (Facebook)

A communications expert was surprised to learn a member of the new Saskatchewan Health Authority board had to step down because of social media posts.

"I think people tend to forget that social media is a direct extension of who you are as an individual. I like to think of social media as a virtual resumé," said Kaveri Braid, with Earnscliffe Strategy Group in Saskatoon. 

Don Rae, the president of Yorkton-based Crusader Drilling Corp., resigned from the provincial government's new Saskatchewan Health Authority board on Thursday, just a week after his appointment.

Although Rae could not be reached for comment, Health Minister Jim Reiter confirmed the resignation was due to, in Rae's own words, "inappropriate" social media posts.

The minister said Rae was heavily vetted by government officials because he already served on a regional health board before being appointed to the province-wide board.

Don Rae, a former Yorkton Chamber of Commerce president, has resigned from the Saskatchewan government's new health superboard. (Greg Ottenbreit/Twitter)

"Obviously some posts he did last week caused some significant media attention. My understanding is more posts came to light yesterday and he resigned from the board," Reiter said. 

In one instance, Rae shared a post that claimed the Liberals want to co-parent Canadian children and introduce them to "anal sex and made up genders."

"It speaks to the new world we live in. Social media is a huge part of the fabric of many people's lives now and it's very important what people put on Facebook or Twitter," Reiter said. 

Social media posts can be forever

Braid said it should now be second nature to almost everyone that what they post on social media, stays on social media.

"It doesn't matter if you want to be prime minister of Canada or the CEO of a corporation, it's still a representation of who you are," Braid said.

Kaveri Braid, a communications expert, says social media is 'a representation of who you are.' (CBC)

Alec Couros, a technology expert from the University of Regina, said it can take some decoding to determine people's actual views online. 

He said while the public can forgive people's one-time mistakes, consistent patterns and offensive beliefs can emerge through people's online posts. 

"How do we judge someone for their record, whether it's on social media or outside of socials media, rather than hinging their entire reputation on one misstep?"

Lack of understanding around privacy settings 

Couros added that there is a serious lack of understanding about social media: the fact that posts are often permanent and easily searchable. 

"Even if you think you have strong privacy settings there is no telling who amongst your friends list — which is more like an acquaintance list — will leak that information," Couros said.

U of R professor Alec Couros says many people don't have a handle on how private (or not) social media actually is. (University of Regina)

In fact there is an entire industry that has emerged allowing people to "cleanse" their social media profiles. That, combined with less permanent kinds of social media like Snapchat, means perhaps some people are learning, Couros said.

Replacement soon

Reiter said Rae's absence will not delay the launch of the board, which will take over from the province's current 12 health boards and oversee the delivery of health care for all of Saskatchewan.  

He said Rae's replacement will come in the following weeks. 

About the Author

Charles Hamilton

Charles Hamilton is a reporter with CBC Saskatoon.