Weiner’s Plight Not That Uncommon

Ten Ways to Stay Out of Trouble On Facebook and Twitter

Representative Anthony Weiner’s situation is not all that uncommon.  The only thing different about Mr. Weiner’s situation is that he is a famous Congressman with a lot of political enemies.  

For years, people have been pushing the send button before they realized what they were doing.  Sometimes they press the wrong button and “copy all” when the communique was confidential and meant for one.  Sometimes they press the send button before cooling off and say something that they wish they hadn’t.

The thing to remember is that there are rules that we should follow when using email or communicating online and if we don’t follow them, we risk serious damage to our careers and reputations.  Here are a few things to keep in mind:

For Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or any public social network…

1. Know That Anything You Post Online Is Public. Don’t type anything online that you want to remain private.  When you post on a social network or online forum, consider it done and intractably “out there”.  Weiner wanted to retract his post and may even have tried to do so. But even a Senator couldn’t stop some individuals from printing copies of what he sent.  If even one person copies or pastes a message, you’ve lost control of it.  I read all the time about people’s jobs being lost, girlfriends being upset, and couples getting divorced because of stupid messages that someone posted accidentally.  

2. Make Sure That You Understand The Terms Of Any Online Site You Post To. Read the fine print and be willing to comply or just don’t participate.  The fact is that most social networks own the content you place there.  If you’re uncomfortable with that idea then just don’t do it. There’s not much you can do about privacy today unless you get your own blog and private protect it (See point 6).  There are people trying to create better privacy laws but for now it is the wild west and you basically give up your rights to privacy in the information you post just by posting it online.  

3. Understand How A Site Works Before You Really Get Into It. Before getting into any social network site, go to the “Settings” and “Privacy” sections and click on all the links and read all the rules.  I know this sounds silly and these rules and terms can be very long, but if you value your reputation and you wish to retain any semblance of privacy, you have to do this.  Don’t use sites until you understand what you are doing.  

On Facebook, when you post a post on your wall or on the wall of a friend, it is visible by everyone in the world; all their friends, and the friends of their friends.  Considering that they know you and that they know many of your same friends, this can be startlingly far reaching. You’d be surprised at how fast any news you post can spread to other people you know in differing social circles.  All these sites have privacy settings but most people never bother to use them and by default they are set to the most generous un-private modes.  It’s your responsibility to set them to your liking

I have a saying about social networks; “On social networks, all worlds collide”.  If you don’t want your employer or your church study group to know all about your private life, you’d better learn how to control your privacy settings early on.

4. THINK Before Posting.  Don’t post away while you are emotional or drunk or angry.  Just don’t do it.  If you must write in those moods, then do it on paper or just open a Notepad window and type it in notepad, then post it a day later so that you’ve had time to cool off.  The act of writing is cathartic so you might feel better just by having written out what you felt.  But a day later, after you’ve had some time to think, you may realize that it would have been stupid to post your feelings online.

5. Keep Your Private Thoughts Private. Just because we can drive our car 100 miles per hour doesn’t mean we should.  Just because you can post your most private thoughts and feelings online doesn’t mean you should.  People are going to be able to read this 10 years from now!  This includes future employers, future dates, future potential spouses… It includes anyone you’ll ever meet.  People Google everyone today.  Do you want all your cards on the table about your entire life forever?  

I suggest buying a simple software program called The Journal.  You can get it here for $49.00…

http://www.davidrm.com/thejournal/  

The software is excellent and it is private because it stays on your computer.  If you must write about your deepest and innermost feelings, do it here.  Then if you feel like sharing it with the world, share it 10 days later after you’ve had time to think.  By the way, don’t post pictures of you being drunk online.  That’s not funny or cool, it’s just plain dumb.

6. Get a Free WordPress Blog Instead.  If you really want to share with your family and friends online get a free WordPress Blog at WordPress.com and use the private / password protected feature for all posts.  

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You also have the ability to set Privacy Setting at WordPress.com.  

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7. Read and understand any games you play on social networks (Mafia Wars, Farmville).  These always sound fun but they are designed to get you more involved and almost always ask for information on all your friends and relatives.  Sometimes, while you’re engaged in the game you forget about privacy and share information that shouldn’t be shared.  I say, stick with monopoly or scrabble with your family at home.  If you must play with your friends online just think first and if you feel uncomfortable with anything a game maker asks, trust your feelings.  The best policy is always to be suspicious online.

8. Don’t Publicly Post:

A. information about and pictures of your family and kids; It’s being used by thieves, con-men, and kidnappers
B. information about your vacations or family outings until they are over: See point A.
C. things about others without checking with them first.
D. credit cards, social security numbers, or bank information

9. Check The Settings In Any “Location Based Services” Such As Foursquare, Facebook Places, Etc.  These are relatively new and we still don’t know how they will play out in terms of privacy.  Be careful.

10. Use Email Instead But Still Follow These Rules.  Most of these rules have applied to email for years. It’s just that they are more applicable to Social Networking.  Social Networking sites are like fire or firearms. They can be used for good, but you need to understand what you are using first. Take the time to learn about social networks; not just on the surface but deep inside before you let loose.  Click all the possible links on a site and read all the terms even though they may seem long.  You’ll actually get good at it after a while and have a better understanding of what is happening with your posts and information.

By the way, there is still nothing wrong with sharing information with your friends via email.  Email is still vulnerable, but it is nowhere near as public as social networks and if you make a mistake it usually doesn’t reach the masses.  Thanks representative Weiner for helping us to be more wary of social networking. :0)

So those are ten rules to live by if you care about privacy, about your job, about your girlfriend or spouse… You get the picture. 

Here’s a bonus rule and it’s just as important.  Teach this stuff to your kids at an early age.  Give them healthy skepticism about anything they do online and warn them about posting private pictures, feelings, and information online.

Thanks for reading!

About Joe Martinico

Joe Martinico coaches entrepreneurs in sales and online marketing.
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