The new head of British foreign intelligence recently demonstrated that anyone can suffer potentially embarrassing or damaging revelations through social networking activity – and even the most mundane and seemingly benign tweets and status updates can have far-reaching consequences. Deb Shinder explains why you should watch your step.
When you have such an eclectic group of people all watching, at the same time, what you’re saying, it can present some challenges and potential problems. Most of us don slightly different personas depending on where we are and who we’re with. We don’t act the same or say the same things when we go to dinner with mom and dad as when we’re out with longtime friends, and we adopt yet another demeanor when we’re dining with business associates. Yet our social networks may bring people from all these groups, and others, together. That’s why it’s important to sit down and think about a few issues before you begin building a social network — and plan a strategy that will let you enjoy its benefits without doing harm to your career, your marriage, or your friendships. And if it’s too late for that, it’s not too late to consider the following 10 things the next time you start to post to a SN site.
Summary of the 10 tips:
- Where are you and what are you here for?
The first thing to consider is the nature of the social networking site(s) you’re using. Some sites are geared toward professional and business relationships, while others are more purely social.
- Who’s in the audience?
Social networking is generally (although not exclusively) a form of written communication. All writers know that the first rule of writing is to know who’s in your audience, because that determines not only what you say but also how you say it.
- Do you dare mix business with pleasure?
One of the biggest dangers of social networking comes when you mix your audiences — for example, having friends or followers who are business associates on the same account as personal friends, family members, and so forth.
- It’s not just what you post
If you’re new to social networking, you might not realize that your friends may be able to see some or all of what your other friends post on your site, as well as pictures they post on their own sites that “tag” (identify) you as one of the subjects.
- A picture is worth a thousand words — and can be a thousand times more embarrassing
Don’t post pictures or videos of other people without their permission or unless you’re absolutely sure they don’t mind and don’t post pictures or videos of yourself in “compromising positions” — drinking/drunk, in provocative dress (or lack thereof), showing off your (usually not visible) tattoo, hanging all over someone other than your spouse (or even if you’re single, someone else’s spouse), and so forth.
- Sensitive subjects can come back to bite you
As in the “real world,” you have to be careful when you start offering opinions, judgments, and commentaries. Venture carefully when you address the traditional hot topics: politics, sex, and religion.
- Avoid the perils of PUI: Posting under the influence
Did you know that this is such a common phenomenon that Google’s Gmail has an add-on feature (called Mail Googles, enabled through the Labs tab in the account Settings) that requires you to solve math problems before you can send email late at night on the weekends? Being under the influence of strong emotions, such as anger, fear, or grief, or suffering from lack of sleep can similarly impair your judgment and cause you to post things you otherwise wouldn’t.
- Be ready to reject a friendship request or “unfriend” someone
If you accept every friendship request you receive, you may end up feeling as if you’ve thrown open the doors of your home and now you have a bunch of strangers camped out in your living room, watching — and commenting on — everything you do and say. This all goes back to knowing your audience.
- Are you familiar with the site’s settings and options?
Social networking sites provide sophisticated privacy tools; take advantage of them to prevent faux pas. But remember that others who do have access can take screen shots or even digital photos of the screen and forward them to others.
- Should you use a pseudonym?
You might be wondering if the best way to avoid all these problems is to just use a pseudonym for your social networking accounts. You could create a fake persona and say whatever you want and nobody would know it’s you. Aside from the fact that this pretty much defeats the whole purpose of social networking — getting to know people and letting them get to know you — it is also a violation of the Terms of Service (ToS) of most social networking sites.
An in-depth version of this article is available, see below: