The IRL Consequences Of Saying The Wrong Thing Online


Whenever you come across a funny video on YouTube, do you feel the impulse to share it with your friends on Facebook?

It used to be relatively easy to keep our personal and professional lives separate.

However, the two are starting to converge due to the ever-increasing reach of social media.

In contrast to that blooper reel link, this topic actually contains some significant implications for your work life and career: The content you choose to share in your social networks could cost you your job.

Infographic by AVG Digital DiariesThe current situation

According to the AVG Digital Diaries, around 22% of individuals in their survey sample between 18-25 years old have their bosses as friends on Facebook.

Here’s a more interesting statistic: 11% of Canadian young adults admit to having had a bad day at work where they posted something abusive about either their boss or company on their social network. (Food for thought: That’s only the proportion that admitted to it.)

It’s more important than ever to start drawing lines in the sand about what to share and what not to, because colleagues and work friends are going to start (or have already started) joining your social network.

“What’s on your mind?”

It’s not only slander or harsh words directed at a colleague that can damage our work lives.

Some of us take it too literally when Facebook or Twitter ask us what’s on our mind. For example, a Canadian sportscaster was fired after he posted an anti-gay marriage Tweet from his personal Twitter account. The Globe and Mail reports that many people have been fired after bragging about what they’d looted during the Vancouver riots. The CBC highlights a story about how negative comments about the death of Amanda Todd cost a worker his job.

In reality, you have the choice to tell the world what’s really on your mind. Often, it’s wiser not to take the social networks up on that offer.

As a writer, I’m aware that every piece I publish could potentially result in backlash or a harsh criticism. When we share our thoughts on the web, we are making ourselves just as vulnerable. Although they can be edited, once they’re published in writing, thoughts can rarely ever be taken back.

Quick solutions to stem over-sharing

I remember watching a TV show where a character wrote angry letters to people and waited five days to send them. While the show is fictional, the principle behind this technique is to delay the impulse in order to give ourselves a few moments to cool down and think. Business leader Michael Hyatt suggests taking some time to cool off before sending that angry e-mail.

An angry e-mail is only seen by one person: an angry update is seen by everyone. While you’re not sending e-mails, it’s still possible to delay your Facebook status or Twitter update. You can use an app like Buffer, which will schedule your update to be posted later. Hopefully, that gives you enough time to reconsider whether or not this is a good idea.

You can also set up lists or privacy settings on Facebook, which only grants a few friends access to your most private thoughts or photos.

Alternatively, you could post things in a more private social network. Path is a social network that you only open to the most intimate of friends. Along the same line of thought, you can go old-school and write your thoughts in the most private of social networks – a journal.

At the end of the day, the safest thing you can do (by far) is to restrain yourself from posting the update in the first place when in doubt. Think about it: how embarrassed would that other person feel when (s)he realizes how many people saw your sharp words?

Go old school and write in a journal (that’s safely tucked away), or only tell your best of friends over the phone. All this his ties back into your reputation and personal brand. Some things are just better left unsaid: grin and bear it, and get back to building awesome things.

Photo credit: Kevin Foley Photography