What happens online stays online, and for personal injury litigants this can lead to some confusion.

A growing number of personal injury lawsuits are finding social media evidence working its way before the court, and some cases have even seemed to turn based on a plaintiff’s Twitter tweets and Facebook posts. Their lives as portrayed on social media can potentially be used by the defence in certain cases to discredit notions of injuries and reduced quality of life.

In one case, a woman claiming psychological trauma following an accident was denied an award after the defence presented pages from her Facebook profile that showed her having fun with friends in numerous active settings. This seemed contrary to her statements made in court that she was depressed and rarely left her home.

The problem is, the way people present themselves on social media is far from accurate. Most people tend to post overwhelmingly positive things to their social media profiles, striving to give the impression of a happy and above-average life no matter what circumstances they are contending with.

Someone suffering from depression isn’t likely to post about that depression, but rather to “put on a happy face” and make posts about the rare occasions when they get out and have a little fun—or at least appear to be having fun.

Whether or not social media evidence should be allowed in these cases, and how much consideration it should be given if allowed, remains controversial. In general, though, the fact that social media posts are so open to interpretation means that for now, litigants are best advised to keep their posts at a minimum.