Rethink that #party

GVPD finds that social media opens Pandora's box with open invitations

By Hannah Lentz | 3/19/14 6:26pm

Though it may seem enticing to throw the next “Project X” party that everyone will be talking about for weeks, you may want to reconsider. With new advancements in the accessibility of social media, you may be getting yourself into more than you bargained for.

With Twitter accounts such as “GVSU Ragers” and “GVSU parties” showcasing the locations and names of the most exciting upcoming parties on campus, anybody and everybody receives an invitation. People viewing these pages have a virtual connection with the party even before the actual physical event. Sometimes these people can pose a threat.

Before spring break, two people were found breaking into cars on the Allendale Campus of Grand Valley State University after a night of partying. The individuals were not students.

When questioned as to how they found out about these events, the individuals replied that they had seen postings on social media outlets that informed them about what was going on that night, said Capt. Brandon DeHaan, assistant director of GVSU’s Department of Public Safety.

It was also revealed that these individuals had no ties to anyone on campus. In situations like this, it is easy to see how an innocent post can attract some guilty visitors, said DeHaan.

“I don’t think that most people recognize the danger when they post about parties online,” said Sgt. Jeff Stoll of the Grand Valley Police Department. “These kinds of posts need to be looked at as an advertisement that the public can get ahold of. It only takes one person to create a problem, and it could be someone who you don’t even know.”

Oftentimes when officers show up at a party that has reached an uncontrollable level, hosts are actually relieved to see police, as they cannot handle the amount of guests that have accumulated throughout the night, said DeHaan. Easily accessible information creates a high level of uncertainty — and a whole new list of dangers.

“These uninvited visitors often do not have the same investiture in our university and sometimes don’t understand the value system in place,” DeHaan said. “This is where things can go wrong or accidents can happen.”

He added that some students may simply be underestimating the extent to which information can travel and that students need to be aware that people are monitoring the things they post on social media.

“It is important to keep in mind that things outside of the community can impact the community in a way that no one wants or intends for,” he said.

GVPD plans to use social media in a more positive way. The department recently created a new Twitter account to highlight educational programs that are being offered.

“The goal is to illuminate the positive side of the police department and provide information and reminders like many other universities are doing,” Stoll said. “It’s a great way to stay connected and show everything that Grand Valley has to offer in a more contemporary way.”

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