We all get a little peeved at something every now and then. We may even call up our friend, or family member and rant for while. It’s a load off. That’s what friends are for. But hold off on going social. It’s a bit like crimes of passion. In the moment (of anger or frustration), your texts, tweets or shares in the social media realm may be hazardous to your career and friendships. Remember that the Internet is like the black hole. It keeps everything, somewhere, somehow–even if you delete later.
And if you express your anger during company time, or on company computers, even with your own login, the chances are that it’s all being captured and stored due to US laws. You may forget about it and relieved to have “expressed your opinion”, but it may come back to haunt you later.
Case in point: a colleague was recently let go from the year-long project she brought to life. She felt betrayed and angry. So she vented. Inevitably, it got back to the company that hired her. But during this time, she was also seeking other employment and needed references. Industries tend be rather small. It’s no longer six-degrees of separation. It’s more like one or two. So it doesn’t take long to discover that the ‘head honchos’ from her previous company to one where she was seeking a position were golf buddies. You can guess the rest. She’s still unemployed.
So how do you handle it?
If you feel absolutely compelled to write it down, go ahead but don’t publish it in the moment. Print it. Read it. Reread it when you’re calmer–give it the 24-hour rule. Have someone you really trust read it. You may have a legitimate post to share, but think about the consequences. What is at stake? Think about how powerful social media is by reading some recent case studies like the Susan G. Komen foundation fiasco where Komen executives are now faced with the task of restoring credibility to one of the strongest brands in the non-profit world. Okay, you may not be the recipient of major funding, but you get my point. News travels fast. Dirty news travels faster. People disassociate themselves from you, or worse, they takes sides–and often, it’s the side that benefits them or pays their bills.
There are other negative consequences. According to PEW Research, those bad outcomes were:
- 15% of adult SNS (social networking service) users said they had an experience on the site that ended their friendship with someone.
- 12% of adult SNS users had an experience that resulted in a face-to-face argument or confrontation with someone.
- 11% of adult SNS users had an experience on the site that caused a problem with their family.
- 3% of SNS-using adults said they had gotten into a physical fight with someone based on an experience they had on the site.
- 3% of adult SNS users said their use of the site had gotten them in trouble at work because of something that happened on the site.
There’s your personal brand to think of too. You’re only as good as your recent post (in the social sphere). Tweets come and go so fast, you may be lucky and it may get buried. Facebook on the other hand is more personal, and may not be so easy to undo. The damage may be instant, even if you delete your post. Comments will be shared and opinions will be formed. Threads live on. Stay away from politics and religion unless it’s your career or you plan to banter all day long. Institutions can do all sorts of searches, even ones that you can’t. The results can hurt you (or someone else). I tell this to kids more than any other group because they tend to be the cruelest and their posts can have major repercussions, even legally. And, tragically (look up ‘cyber bullying’).
Legitimate complaints are different. Exposing something is different than responding to something. And even then, someone may still shoot the messenger. Be authentic in your criticism. Don’t use expletives. It’s unprofessional. Support your criticism with fact. If you’re not alone in your complaint, Google it. See what others have said and share a comment. Get some advocates. There are many sites that support legitimate complaints. And, there’s Yelp. Check it out. A blog for another day.
Three tips to avoiding regretful tweets, posts and pins:
- Don’t social when you’re angry
- Don’t social when you’re drinking
- Wait 24 hours if you’re in doubt about what you’re writing
Have similar experience? A story or comment to share? We’d love to hear your comments.