The online world offers an incredibly rich resource for anyone with Internet access; a tool to enhance our lives and further our career. But, like any “tool”, if we are not careful we can harm ourselves and/or others. In this case, by what we say (post).
Did you know:
- Anything we post online is a permanent record? While we may post something (on Facebook, for example), and then shortly there-after delete it (I wish I had never said that), it is NOT gone. Facebook makes no guarantees that they wipe our information clean, just because we deleted it (and it is no longer visible — to us).
- If an investigation was being launched on us Facebook is one of the first places they would go!
- Things we post online can be used as the grounds for suspension from school, even getting the police involved?
- Things we post online can cost a job, cause a public relations scandal for our company, even a serious and costly lawsuit?
- The online world is what is now used by people to investigate their genealogy? Have you ever explored Ancestry.com? If not, check it out! They provide access to TONS of information on our ancestry that was generated offline (way before the Internet, such as census records from over 100 years ago). Just imagine how much Facebook is becoming an ever-increasing resource for this type of activity.
- Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media sites are an extremely valuable tool for prospective employers to learn about us prior to deciding if they’d like to interview us.
In the past few years I have seen others impacted by unanticipated outcomes resulting from their posts to Facebook. What follows is perhaps an extreme, but an all too real, example.
During one of our recent adventures (outside the country) we met a family of 4 from Europe. He is the CEO of a company and she “was” an employee of the same firm. They also have 2 young children. The husband and wife were still “stinging” from an incident that occurred only weeks earlier. As told by the wife…One evening after a few glasses of wine she posted a racist comment on Facebook. Shortly after doing so (within minutes) she decided to delete the comment. Phew, right?!? Wrong! It was too late. One of her “friends” on Facebook is of the racial descent that she had commented about. Insulted and infuriated, this “friend” had reposted her comment and not long afterwards it was in the hands of the press. You know what the press did with it don’t you. A “hot” story developed in which the comment was fully attributed to the CEO, his company, his wife and employee. A public relations nightmare ensued. The wife was immediately terminated from her post.
After this family had left our table, our boys could only shake their heads in disbelief and one commented: “What a numby!”
Considering the potential impacts that can result from our posts it makes good sense, then, to consider a number of principles and guidelines to adhere to, such as:
- What Mom used to say: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” That one goes quite far!!!
- Asking ourselves: “Would I want my children to read this?” I know, I know, some will say “My kids are too young to read.” What if you died today? Our Facebook accounts will NOT be deleted when we cross over to the other side. It is free, remember? As such, it will persist and our children (and grandchildren) will be able to read our complete journal of postings. What kind of example are we setting? Is this the kind of legacy we’d like to leave behind?
- Asking ourselves: “Is what I’m about to post going to further my career and/or social standing – or shoot myself in the foot?”
We can’t use the excuse: “This is my personal life, which is totally separate from my career.” Wrong! There is only one you and there is only one Internet; wide open to everyone! There is no separation. And, there is far less privacy than you could imagine.
What about freedom of speech? Go for it. Just don’t complain when it is difficult getting a job, or when a job is lost because of something posted online. I’d suggest that the woman in our example above is virtually unemployable. Any potential employer would ask him/herself: “What kind of damage might she do to my company one evening after she has had a few glasses of wine and Facebook at her fingertips?”
The key question: Do we want the odds stacked in our favor (for success), or not?
“The person who sends out positive thoughts activates the world around him positively and draws back to himself positive results.” ~ Norman Vincent Peale
The Internet and more specifically social media can be used for so many good things. Let’s not let our use of it become a millstone around our neck.