The Messy Ethics Of Sharing Screenshots Of DMs

The (Messy) Ethics Of Sharing Screenshots Of DMs On Social Media

Private message, public business.

The tea is hot. But is it worth it? That’s the question you need to be asking yourself the next time you think about posting that juicy screenshot on the timeline.

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With advancements in technology and the rise of social media, society has given us a lot of new tools for how we communicate with one another. One widely used tool that has proven to be both a blessing and a curse is the power of screenshotting. Anyone with a smartphone has tried to screenshot something on their feed at least once. You see a post or comment on social media that catches your attention, and you decide to screenshot it, whether to immortalize it for yourself or share it with people you know.

Now, there’s nothing inherently wrong with that. After all, things that are shared or posted publicly on social media are fair game. But what happens when that screenshot comes from a private place like your DMs? What now? Because what you’re about to enter is one of the most intense landmines social media has inadvertently created, and there’s no easy way around it.


Whitney Houston asking for the receipts aka screenshots

Taking a screenshot of something serves as the emotional reaction to what you saw on your feed or messages, whether it be out of laughter, anger, disgust, intrigue, or a mix of all of them. When you take that screenshot, it scratches that psychological itch to document what you saw. But while taking that screenshot on your feed is one thing, it’s a whole other game when that message was meant for a select group of eyes. They’re called private messages for a reason. Social media has given us so many tools to share things that are deemed private, personal, and not meant for public consumption. There’s Facebook’s messenger, Instagram’s DMs, and more.

When your best friend, significant other, or whoever close person in your life shares something in the DMs, it’s for a reason. That’s only meant for you, and they trust you enough to do that. In an increasingly digitized world that prioritizes making public one’s life online, private messages are one of the few remaining places where people’s private spheres aren’t expected to be violated. But as we all know by now, screenshots are 21st-century gossip. When someone asks for the receipts, it’s usually in the form of screenshots. It’s the manifestation of that famous Joanne The Scammer gif of her in the car as the user has screenshots that can ruin lives.


Like with many things on social media, the rules on whether or not to share that screenshot to a friend or the public is not set in stone. There’s no official rule book that you can look up that dictates common etiquette regarding sharing private messages. It’s a new of a phenomenon. But, as it is with most things on the internet, the best way to go about this is to use your judgment and to think whether it’s worth doing. Remember, when you spill hot tea, you can also get burned.

One on hand, these messages are private for a reason. What beef is started in private should normally be dealt with in private as well. You don’t want to be called that fake friend who reveals all the secrets do you? If you post that screenshot, especially publicly, prepare to face the consequences of your actions.

On a more interpersonal note, while you may think that sharing what your crush said in a chat with your BFF is ok, there are also repercussions. Did that person give their consent for you to do that? How would you feel if someone did that to you? As easy as it is for you to take a screenshot of that private chat, so too is it for other people.

DMs and private messages are supposed to be safe spaces built on mutual trust. Can you imagine consistently being afraid that your friends are going to air out your dirty laundry or personal thoughts? What kind of friendship is that? The fallout is not something that you want to deal with.


On the other hand, when done properly, sharing screenshots can be a way to expose injustices and other messy behavior that goes down in the DMs that otherwise wouldn’t be brought into the light. This can be in the form of exposing a chat with deplorable content, informing a friend, or showing your bestie that their significant other is not so loyal. Yes, it’s complicated, but that’s how social media is. You can even see it on a case-by-case basis.

@lienelpnavidad Char HAHAHAH #forcontentonly #goodvibes #foryiupage ♬ original sound – itslienelnavidad on ig🦊

While the inner Marites in us tempt us to send those screengrabs, know that anything done on social media has a consequence, no matter how big or small. This is why it’s a landmine because one wrong step can lead to a nightmarish downfall, for you or the person who sent the message. What happens on the convo stays on the convo. Admittedly though, that isn’t a universal saying that can be applied to all scenarios.

What can best help you navigate this then is using your proverbial metal detector called judgment. Before you send that screenshot, think about what is your purpose for doing it and who are the people involved. The tea is boiling, but what’s the endgame? Once you have those questions answered, then you can decide to press send. There’s no judgment here though because we’re all imperfect people. We’re not stopping you as you’re free to do what you want. But, we also want you to make an informed decision because social media is already messy as it is. So, remember to think before you post.

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