Social Media And The Growing Problem Of Plagiarism
I have noticed a disturbing growing trend in the world of online marketing, especially on social media: people who take credit for the work of others. As a creative entrepreneur who builds her business and personal brand primarily online, I too have had to deal with this on a personal level. Its not the most enjoyable part of running a business but dealing with plagiarism is just a reality we all face as business owners who create content.
First, let's define plagiarism. Old Mr. Webster's version is "the practice of taking someone else's work or ideas and passing them off as one's own".
Before the internet, plagiarism was considered a copyright violation of an author's work but now with billions of people having access to social media platforms it has become quite easy for someone to see a post on another person's page, think to themselves "wow that sounds really great", copy the text and paste it to their wall in a matter of seconds. Any time a person takes someone else's words or work and passes them off as their own without permission or properly crediting the source its plagiarism. Period.
And interestingly enough I find that many people see nothing wrong with it. People who have this mentality that if its on social media its up for grabs. A content "free for all". I once had someone take a post from my Facebook page, a piece of my personal story, and copy it word for word down to the hashtag. They simply changed out my photo for their selfie and voila they had a Facebook post. I just happen to notice it one evening while scrolling through my newsfeed. This is an example of blatant plagiarism.
I was shocked and hurt by this person's actions and while I made an attempt to address it privately, I refuse to live in a place where I seek out to destroy any one that copies my work, ideas and story. That is a toxic dangerous place to be mentally and emotionally. As a personal branding coach who preaches from the roof tops how important authenticity is, this issue goes much, much deeper for me than my personal experience and this blog post is my soul centered attempt to address it from a couple of different angles.
TO THE PERSON COMMITTING PLAGIARISM
I want to honestly believe that most people take the work of others from a place of not fully knowing how hurtful this can be to the author of the work. I want to believe that people don't truly understand the importance of social media etiquette. Not only are you hurting your personal brand by copying someone else's work but you are robbing the world of YOUR blessing.
Need clarification and examples of plagiarism? Here are a few:
• taking memes and cropping out the creator's branding i.e. website, logo, name.
• copying verbiage word for word from someone's social media page and using it as your own without crediting the source
• taking a quote and conveniently leaving out the original author
• copying the content of an eBook or course material and using it as your own
God created us all with unique super powers. Gifts and talents to share with the world and serve others. When you take the work of another person and use it as your own, you are not sharing YOU. Your authenticity, your story, your experiences, your inner truth, your personality. You are essentially passing yourself off as someone else and that for me is the truly tragic part. People are not seeing YOU. God wants you to thrive and prosper and you simply can not do that when you don't honor yourself and others.
Let go of the limiting belief that what you have to share is not good enough, important enough, powerful enough. Stop comparing yourself to others. Embrace the amazing beautiful person God created you to be and share your individuality, your true genuine self. Work hard to master your craft and skill sets. Taking the easy way only hurts you in the long run.
Two of my favorite quotes about the importance of authenticity:
"Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. Its about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen." Brené Brown.
"Live authentically. Why would you continue to compromise something that's beautiful to create something that is fake?" Steve Maraboli
If you are searching your own heart about this issue and find yourself wanting to blow it off, that using someone else's words, story and work is "not that big of a deal", take the time to ask yourself these questions:
1. How would you feel if you had put the time, energy and emotion into sharing something that was 100% you only to find that someone had taken it as their own and not given you proper credit for it? Would you be hurt? Angry? Shocked?
2. Do you believe in the Law of Attraction? That what you give is what you receive? Is this the kind of energy you want to attract into your life and business? People who see nothing wrong with taking your hard work and passing it off as their own?
If you have made the mistake of copying someone else's work in the past don't beat yourself up over it. Its never too late to start doing things the right way. The mistakes that you have made can help you show someone down the road grace and forgiveness if you ever find yourself on the other end of seeing your work being used without your permission or proper credit.
TO THE PERSON WHO HAS BEEN A VICTIM OF PLAGIARISM
While it can be disheartening and make your blood boil, it all comes down to how you choose to react when you are faced with seeing someone steal your words, work and creativity. You can choose to act out taking the tit-for-tat route where you call the person out on social media to publicly shame them (I have seen this many times and let me tell you, while I don't agree with people stealing the work of others, publicly shaming another person is just as bad if not worse in my book) or you can choose to handle the situation privately and respectfully.
Try to handle these situations with grace and compassion while keeping in mind that the person may not care, take responsibility for their actions or even worse shift the blame back onto you. The severity of the plagiarism depends on whether you quickly bless and release it choosing to move on as not to draw any further negative energy into your space or whether you take legal action, for example sending the person a cease and desist letter.
Dealing with this issue is just the reality of being a creative entrepreneur. The more that you up-level your skills the more people are going to want to be you, to have what you have and that is not a bad thing. Its a compliment and shows that you are doing something right but don't allow yourself to live in a place of fear. Fearful that every time you create something, it will be stolen. I have been part of communities where this fear is running rampant and its sad to see people who are very gifted and talented destroy their own businesses and brands with constant rants about people who copy their "creative genius".
At the end of the day people may copy your work but they can NOT copy your style, energy, voice or personality. They can NOT do YOU the way you can. They can NOT duplicate your story or combination of gifts and talents.
I love this quote by Ming-Dao Deng "The moon does not fight. It attacks no one. It does not worry. It does not try to crush others. It keeps to its course, but by the very nature, it gently influences. What other body could pull an entire ocean from shore to shore? The moon is faithful to its nature and its power is never diminished."
YOUR story matters. Fearlessly share it with the world! xo
Would love to hear your thoughts. Have you dealt with this issue before? Learned a hard lesson that you used to live more authentically? Would love to hear your thoughts and experiences.
April Williams is a Creative Momista and Soulpreneur of 2 boys + whimsical wavemaker + creative expressive + Texas country girl + branding junkie who loves green mint tea + horses + fuzzy socks + surrounding herself with high achieving amazing women + peppermint anything + the color red + cozy coffee shops. She is a branding strategist for creative women entrepreneurs and founder of Creative Brandista™ .