By Scott Robertson
I’m not a big social media guy. In fact, I’ve made some foolish statements regarding social media in the past, like the time I said Facebook was a passing fad. There is, however, one thing I do understand about social media: it’s publishing.
If one takes the time to establish an account, create an identity, and put one’s thoughts, opinions and images online, then one has started an independent publishing concern. And that’s an area where I do have some small expertise.
So if you’ve never thought about it in those terms, please allow me to share some guidelines for publishing opinions – guidelines that may help you avoid problems in the insta-face-snap-vine-pin-twit-kik world.
1. Be sincere – I recently read a message from one “soulmate” to another on social media. It left me wondering whether the soulmate who posted it was more interested in being a romantic, charming partner, or in letting everyone else who read it see what a swell guy he is. I don’t doubt the guy is madly in love, and it may make his lady fair feel wonderful that he proclaims it to the stars (for you ‘80s guys, think John Cusack holding a boom box over his head). Just remember that public statements of affection ring hollow if not followed up privately.
2. Be respectful – It’s very easy to get into trouble talking about what other people say or do. You are dealing with other people’s lives every time you publish something about them online. Even if you want to praise someone for an action you think was wise or brave, you could be causing more harm than you know if that action was never meant to be publicized.
3. Be careful – Think of the worst person you know. The one person whom you absolutely cannot trust. Now realize he or she can see everything you publish. To go all ‘80s again, every single day and every word you say, he’ll be watching you, waiting for you to give him an opportunity to mess with you, to screw something up for you.
4. Be even more careful if you have a job – First, you can get fired. Employers don’t have much patience for people who damage the brands they’ve worked hard to build. If you have a desire to speak your mind, make sure you realize that not only is your boss reading what you write, your boss’s attorney is reading what you write. So if you want to guarantee your entry into the unemployment statistics, then say something bad about the products or services at the company you work for; make a false, or even a reckless accusation; or break a confidence about the workplace. Do you enjoy sharing thoughts about race or religion in ways that express your disdain for those who disagree with you? Well, if your employer sees you as a bad public relations risk, he or she may find some other excuse to let you go.
Second, you may never get hired in the first place. Do you have a risqué twitter handle? Have you posted pictures of yourself or your friends on Instagram that might be considered “appealing to the prurient interest of the viewer?*” If so, your application may never go farther than the screener in the human resources office. If your pictures go against the company’s image, you will be welcome to find work elsewhere. Other people don’t want you messing with their company’s image, even if you’re not thinking in those terms.
The bottom line is this: Even when you think you are writing about your own life, you are writing to, for and about other people. Welcome to the publishing business.
*It means dirty.