In today's world, we are more increasingly living in a space where everything about our lives is made public. There was once a time in our history when paper and printing were such rare commodities, that in society we were more discriminate in what words were actually put out there for public consumption. Writings, statements, etc were scrutinized-- is this information important enough to share with the masses-- do we use our rare resources to convey "this message" (whatever it may be), or should we further think it through to make sure "this message" is worthy of the use of rare resources, and the time involved to produce it for the masses. As our society changes and grows and as our technology evolves, this idea is becoming lost.
These days, with social media, internet news sources, mobile devices, etc. it seems this idea has become lost all together, which is what prompted me to write this post. Are we sharing too much information these days- and are we sometimes spreading misinformation, because we don't spend the proper time verifying and vetting the information we do put out there. Has social media and the internet made it so we don't take responsibility for our words? Should we use "free speech" as a crutch to post any message we want for the world to see? Shouldn't we have a social responsibility to make sure the words we put out in the world are accurate and true? Journalist are held to this standard, why aren't the rest of us. A Journalist can't write whatever they want about any topic or person without consequences. They have to work within ethical guidelines, because they can be held responsible for their words - due to libel and slander laws.
As a marketing professional and designer I am often asked to manage my clients social media forums. And as a business owner myself with my own social life I've come to the conclusion that although we shouldn't be judged based on what we choose to do with our social lives and social media there's no controlling that we still are. Business professionals especially should be even more careful when it comes to what they post on their social media outlets. Although we do live in a society where we are free to speak our minds that doesn't necessarily mean we always should. Sometimes posting your opinion on something will cause people to judge you unfairly or jump to conclusions about the "underlying message" you are conveying.
Yes, we live in a wonderful time where we do have free speech and we can speak our minds, but should we always? This is something each of us has to decide for ourselves. But here are some things to keep in mind. You don't want to alienate a future employer, college admissions, client, friend, in-law etc. because they have inferred "what you mean" by a statement, photo, video, etc that you have shared with the world. Should we be able to post whatever we want with no judgement? Yes. But unfortunately in the world we live in today, it's just not that simple. The FACT IS, YOU ARE JUDGED ON WHAT YOU POST.
It is endless what you can share on social media for the world to see, but before you do you should think about the possible consequences. Posts and photos regarding....
1. Posting Digs, Jokes, or Statements "meant to be funny"
When you post something vague on your blog, twitter, Facebook, myspace, etc there is no TONE. Sometimes you may write something that you think is funny- but could offend others. And since there is no voice inflection, or mischievous glint in your eye, the audience may have no idea that you were trying to be funny or make a joke. This recently has become an issue in the Tyler Clementi trial as well as in schools where students are being bullied via electronic means. REMEMBER: the people reading your posts are not in your head. You may think you are being harmless with your posts, but they may be harmful and hurtful to others.
2. Partying too hard. Posting the innappropriate.
It is great to have fun with your friends, and post pics of these escapades. But think about what is appopriate not for the NOW, but for your future. Do you want to become very successful in your career to only have your past come back and haunt you? This happens all the time, especially in politics. For Example: Bill Clinton.. "I didn't inhale." Would he have been elected if there was video of him on Facebook actually inhaling? Who knows, but do you want to go to a job interview and NOT get the job because 5 years ago a friend of your posted a pic of you on the internet "praying to the porcelain god?" It was funny at the time, right?
3. Getting too emotional...do you post TMI?
Do you post your life's ups and downs? When you are fighting with a friend, boyfriend, co-worker etc. Do you intentionally post things to "get a rise from them"? Do you share your intimate moments on a public forum. If you do, that is your choice, but remember YOU ARE BEING JUDGED. Have you lost out on potential clients, job opportunities, etc because you are viewed as Volatile or Emotionally unstable? You probably don't think you are viewed this way. But if you post all of your Personal Ups and Downs- then someone out there probably views you as an "emotional mess". Believe it or not this translates, and if a potential employer thinks this of you, they start to think, do I want to hire this person— will their dramatic emotional moments affect their ability to do their job. Should they make a decision about you based only on your merits, and not what you put out there? YES-- but is this how it works? NO! What you post is a reflection of your character, and colleges and business owners have started checking Facebook and social media to see what kind of character you have. So be careful what and how you post.
4. Venting about co-workers and clients....
This is a huge NO NO.. People have been fired for venting about their boss or place of employment on Facebook. It is never smart to post negative things relating to your job, employer, vendors, co-workers, friends, acquaintances etc. This is a bell you can't un-ring! Public forums ARE NOT the place for venting about people in your life. Call a friend, get a cocktail and vent. Or better yet, sit face to face with the person you have a problem with and work it out! We all need to vent sometimes, but posting things in the heat of frustration and anger, only leads to REGRET. And once it's out there you can't take it back! Yes, you can delete it, but you can never delete it from the mind of those who read it before you do.
5. Professing your political and religious views.....
We are lucky to live in a society where we have freedom in these areas. But always be aware, these types of posts can be hot-button issues for lots of people, so be careful what you post. You may have potential clients and/or opportunities with people that have very different views. This is what makes America great, everyone has the right to their own opinion. Remember though, just as you have the "freedom to post these things"- others have the "freedom to judge you or not do business with you because of your views". As a business professional you have to check your personal thoughts on these topics at the door. You don't want to alienate anyone in the business arena because you passionately post your thoughts and views. Although you are completely entitled to your own political and religious views just be prepared that sharing them could turn around and hurt your image or brand. And the same goes for all the topics I mentioned above.
All of the above are topics that can possibly give your clients, vendors, friends, etc an unfavorable perception of you. All of us are individuals and that is nothing to be ashamed of or hide, however if you use your social media outlets for your company or the professional side of your life, you need to watch your personal posts. You can't be promoting your business or professional skills at 9am and then bashing your boyfriend or coworker at 2pm, without it effecting how your followers and/or clients view you. When it comes to business, especially with our economy the way it is people want to spend money with trust-worthy, capable and consistent individuals. If you portray yourself to be anything but that, rest assured eventually your business/professional life will suffer.
There are several Facebook privacy settings you can change to prevent people from seeing anything on your page you don't want them to see. Photo tagging privacy policies, sharing with only certain groups of people your posts and so on. Check all of your other social media sites for these same settings. It could help you limit what potential employers, clients, etc see.
It's true, your personal life should not dictate the way you are in business, but unfortunately it absolutely does. So be sure you are monitoring what your social media sites are saying about you. Think about what you are posting, be responsible with your words. And if you are trying to be informational in your posts, make sure that you research, and that you are putting accurate information out there.