It takes just seconds to share your innermost secrets or at-times volatile views on social media.

But the snappy posts to Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram have a lasting impact - and once you've shared them have the potential to take on a life of their own.

The potential peril of social media posts - and how they can reach a lot more people than first anticipated - hit home again this week after Auckland woman Lara Wharepapa Bridger posted a video to Facebook with claims about an encounter with the Mad Butcher, Sir Peter Leitch, on Waiheke Island.

Bridger's post - where she claimed Sir Peter told her Waiheke was a "white man's island" - was initially meant for just her friends; but it soon went viral, amassing more than 90,000 views and sparked a heated debate the length of the nation about racism and classism.


The 23-year-old - who had met Sir Peter while on a wine trail on the Hauraki Gulf island - later deleted the post because "people were going a bit overboard with threats and racist comments" directed at Sir Peter.

But by then it had created front page news and generated hours of talkback radio.

Social media expert and commentator Vaughn Davis - owner of social media and advertising agency The Goat Farm - said the reaction to Bridger's video highlighted how it was impossible to control a post's reach once uploaded.

"It's very, very, very easy and quick to post on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram," he said.

"People post 10, 20, 50,000 times and that happens in a heart beat. But the scrutiny they receive lasts for hours and days and weeks, so it's a little bit disproportionate.

"When we post a throw away tweet or a Facebook post we don't think that it's going to get raked over the coals by everybody and perhaps if we did we wouldn't."

And in Bridger's case almost "everybody" was talking or posting their own views on her encounter with Sir Peter; including high profile New Zealanders including ex-Warriors captain Ruben Wiki and Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy, as well as scores of Kiwis online and on talkback radio.

Sir Peter responded to Bridger's video in a press statement, saying he was "extremely disappointed that a young woman on Waiheke Island had misinterpreted some light-hearted banter".


He said he had made the offending comment after telling the group that Bridger was with not to drink and drive.

"She said that she was Tangata Whenua and could do what she liked, and I responded with a joke about it being a white man's island also," he said on Monday.

The woman later told media that the group had in fact appointed a designated driver.

Davis said posting on social media was like "having a conversation in public, so it does invite everyone to become part of that".

"And having said that I do think [talking about race and class] is a good conversation to have in public. Even though it's probably pretty tough for the two people involved, maybe the public nature of this isn't a bad thing for us as a society," Davis said.

"Both the people involved felt strongly about what happened and I think it would have been an appropriate response for Peter Leitch to pick up his phone and post a video back, just saying how he felt and giving his side of the story."


University of Auckland media studies academic Dr Misha Kavka agreed that the topic of Bridger's video was one of public importance, but said before posting something about an identifiable person social media users should "think through the consequences".

"You need to think about why you're doing it and whether you want to start a public discussion," Kavka said.

"People may have perfectly good reasons for posting what they consider to be an incident that needs public attention, but they have to think it through.

"The issue is being aware you're liable to draw a bigger audience then you think whenever you post something. Even if you post something in a closed group it can go beyond that group."

Sir Peter is the latest high profile New Zealander to be roasted over a post made on social media.

Warriors wing Manu Vatuvei well knows the fallout from using social media. Photo / Jason Oxenham
Warriors wing Manu Vatuvei well knows the fallout from using social media. Photo / Jason Oxenham

Last year high-profile Warriors players earnt the ire after social media posts in the aftermath of a scandal involving players mixing prescription drugs and energy drinks on a big night out.


Manu Vatuvei's social media accounts were flooded with angry posts after he uploaded a photo of himself with the text: "If you wanna talk about me behind my back why don't you come say it to my face ... Look in the mirror before you say something about other people."

Team-mate Konrad Hurrell - who has since left for the Gold Coast Titans - also got in hot water with the club and fans for retweeting a post questioning players' faith in then head coach Andrew McFadden.

Internationally some of the world's biggest brands also got in hot water for social media fails last year.

DC Comics was roasted after posting a cartoon with the message: "All translated from Pakistanian." There is no such language, instead the official language of Pakistan is Urdu.

Angry Russians also launched a social media campaign to boycott Coca-Cola after the softdrink giant had earlier tweeted what it believed was a map of the country's borders. But the map included areas annexed after World War II.

To avoid posting something they might regret Davis advised social media users to ask themselves whether they would want their mum, boss or enemies to see the post.


"Just take half a second to think through the MBE - Mum. Boss. Enemies."

If the answer to any of those questions was no, it was better not to post.

Being savvy on social media

• Remember if it's online it's no longer private - Even if your post is private it can still be copied or screenshotted
• Before you post go through the MBE checklist - Remember your mum, remember your boss and remember your enemies
• Think about the possible consequences BEFORE you post
• Don't post something about someone as revenge
• Remember that you are identifiable - your name and face is attached to what you post on social media