This isn’t an original thought necessarily, but it’s one that’s been brewing in my mind for quite a while now: it really seems like some of our (academically-older) colleagues don’t grasp what social media is or what it’s for, or how it’s used by different people. I’m putting aside the motives of the actual, original replying faculty members; I agree with basically everyone else that they were playing out their long-term academic beef with the student’s advisor(s) by harassing the student on social media, and that just makes them straight-up bad actors. But there’s a larger, separate group out there who is just like “Oh but potential future employers will see this and will be reluctant to hire you because of it” – and, um, who do you think this mystical potential hire-er class consists of, exactly? It’s you!
So I can see a few possibilities for what’s going on in these people’s heads. 1. They secretly think this scold behavior is good (i.e., they’d like to police others’ social media activity themselves, but they implicitly recognize that this makes them shitty people, so they’re hiding behind what “other people” may or may not do in the future as a stand-in for their own shitty inclinations). 2. They think it’s indeed shitty cop behavior but think they’re powerless to buck these trends because of… reasons? 3. They’re genuinely well-intentioned but fundamentally misunderstand what social media is and what it is for. They treat it like the publicly-circulated minutes of some ongoing academic conference that never ends.
I actually suspect that for much of this sympathetic-to-the-replying-faculty crowd, what’s going on is (3). But the choice to treat social media that way is just a choice, and, to remind everyone, the people treating it that way are very much the same class of people who are in positions to make or at least influence the dreaded hiring decisions that constitute the relevant Damoclean sword, in the first place.
More generally, this response to people’s social media activity has Manager Brain written all over it. If a potential employer wouldn’t hire you because you have at some previous point in time behaved like a human on social media, that is a bad employer and it’s them who should be shamed, not you.