I am not the biggest fan of gossip magazines. It is my personal opinion that you do not forfeit your right to a personal life simply because your employment puts you in the spotlight. So, to say I am out-of-date on the latest celebrity news is like saying Habanero peppers are a little bit spicy. However, thanks to Twitter, I have discovered the latest misstep by Ashton Kutcher.
Whether you are an actor, a politician, a factory worker, or a high school student, when you put your words on the internet, for better or for worse, they stay there. In some cases, you can go back and delete what you’ve written. Still, all it takes in a single screen capture for someone else to republish your words. Mr. Kutcher is finding this out in spades this week. In fact, he has decided to turn control of his Twitter account over to his PR staff.
Personal safety on the internet and with social media is only one half of the equation. The other half is personal accountability. The allure of the internet is that it can afford some measures of anonymity, and it is tempting to say things we would not ordinarily say because of that. The thing is, the internet is not as anonymous as you might think. There are ways of tracking what people have said to the people who have said them. Mr. Kutcher has only embarrassed himself temporarily with his recent comments on Twitter. Others have lost their jobs over postings. In more tragic cases, some have lost their lives.
Like with safety, there are ways to protect your privacy and what you post on social media. Explore the privacy settings for the platform you are using. Not only can you usually determine who amongst your friends can see your postings, you can determine what the general public sees as well. Another thing to watch for is picture tagging. A friend tagging you in their graduation photo is not a bad thing. A friend tagging you in a photo from a party the week before where you are vomit covered and passed out in a corner…well, you decide. Facebook allows you to remove tags and to approve tagging before it is published. Other platforms may not have such controls. In those cases, talk to your friends and inform them what your preferences are when it comes to photo sharing/tagging.
The most important, but seemingly the hardest, thing you can do is evaluate what you are going to say. If you do not want the entire world to know what you have posted, refrain from posting it. More and more people are searching social media sites when making hiring decisions. If you do not want to miss out on an employment opportunity because of what you have posted it, do not post it. If you do not want to lose your current employment over what you have posted, stop for a moment and do not post it. We all have the need to vent from time to time, but perhaps social media platforms are not the most appropriate places to do it. Post as though the world is watching. Because sometimes, it is.