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Greek life participants should clean up act in age of social media

By Greta Hallberg, Columnist

Our world is more transparent than ever. Every picture we take, message we send, or stupid answer we Google is accessible somewhere, someway, somehow through the interwebs. Every password can be cracked and every website can be hacked.

With every online purchase, article click or Instagram like, we willingly abandon our right to privacy, giving up valuable information to companies that collect metadata about our demographics, our interest, our hopes, our fears--everything. In short, in the Internet era, nothing is off limits.

This world that we live in is in direct conflict, then, with secrecy. Greek organizations, exclusive clubs with rituals and traditions, have struggled to maintain a positive reputation in our hyper-transparent world.

Any scan of The Miami Student headlines lately paint unflattering pictures of the Greek community. Chapters are on probation, facing underage drinking and hazing allegations. My own sorority has had our fair share of chapter-wide conversations about social media and our weekend behavior.

But instead of angry letters to the editor or criticizing students for writing about legitimate news, maybe members of the Greek community need to look inward.

Here's the reality: the parties are going to happen. We're a bunch of twenty-somethings with little to no adult supervision. College is synonymous with red solo cups and cheap alcohol, regardless of whether you wear Greek letters.

I'm not condoning or promoting the risky behaviors of underage drinking, but I'll admit that I participated in them. You'd be hard pressed to find an individual on a college campus who didn't enjoy a beer or two before turning 21.

And that's not exactly a new phenomenon. Many of our parents, professors and other alumni frequented bars or house parties before they turned 21.

But Redhawks 15 years ago didn't have cellphones. They weren't documenting every shot with their camera phones that were essentially an extension of their arm. And they definitely weren't posting pictures.

The advent of Facebook in 2004, setting the stage for the popularization of social media, revolutionized the way college students interact. Add a pocket-sized computer/camera into your mix and nearly every moment can be documented and shared--even the unflattering ones.

Snapchat didn't enter the scene until 2012, my freshman year of college. Now, I can hardly go through a day without taking an ugly selfie or capturing my friends saying something stupid.

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Look, I don't know if the behavior has changed over the years. Part of the issue is a rise in risky alcohol-consumption behavior. This is a well documented trend across college campuses, but it's not unique to Miami or even Greek life.

And as for the hazing? I'm not in a fraternity. I know there are two sides to every story. And some elements of pledging, while I don't understand or even support them, are important parts of the brotherhood for many. I can't speak for fraternities, so I don't know if the same things have happened over the years or if the behavior has gotten worse.

I don't know the truth of what happened to any of these sororities or fraternities. I'm not here to comment on the allegations of their behavior or to pass judgement. I'm really not even writing about the behavior in question.

But what I do know? A lot of these allegations were made because of lapses in judgement on social media. Snapchats don't disappear. People can screenshot pictures. And there are resources available that can tap into every picture and text that's been taken or sent on a smartphone.

The risky behavior is a problem, sure. I'm not writing it off, but twenty somethings are inherently reckless. It's the careless documentation and sharing of such behavior is what gets people in trouble. If this keeps up, the entire Greek system will crumble, not just at your chapter or the community at Miami, but nationwide.

I may not be the sorority girl poster child. Approaching graduation, I still have mixed feelings about the recruitment process and the system in general. But on the whole, I've enjoyed the friendships and memories I've made because I rushed. It's flawed, yes, but I'd like to keep it around for a while so future generations can share in the positive experiences that I had with Greek life.

But at this rate, I don't see that happening. While college students thoughtlessly post a snapchat of their drunk friends or worse, pledges, they erode the foundation of the Greek system and any chance at the administration seeing the positive or productive value in it.

I can't tell you to change what you do on the weekends, nor do I want to. But I've seen the actions of a few bad apples affect the entire group's standing with the university or their national chapter. For the sake of the future of the Greek community, be careful what you take pictures of, text about and snapchat. Nothing is sacred anymore.

So, members of the Greek community, in the wise words of Ice Cube, "check yo self before you wreck yo self."