Be careful what you post on social media because it could negatively impact your life

August 28, 2017

Before posting, ask “is this worth it?”

No matter how many times people are told to watch what they put on social media, we still continue to do and say things on these platforms that negatively impact our lives.

The Atlee Little League softball team was denied advancement in the Junior League World Series because of an inappropriate social media post.

 Even though these girls are just teens, they suffered tremendous consequences.

While many people opined that the punishment was too harsh because the girls were so young, in my work, I continue to be asked to address similar, if not worse, online behavior by adults.

Whether texting or emailing someone, or using Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or any electronic media platform, we all must realize the potential consequences of inappropriate online behavior and its potential consequences to our careers and reputations.

CareerBuilder surveyed hiring managers who said they denied employment to 51 percent of applicants because of their online presence.

The employers said they rejected candidates because of provocative or inappropriate photographs or information; information about candidates drinking or using drugs; candidates bad-mouthing their previous company or fellow employees; poor communication skills; discriminatory comments related to race, gender and religion; lying about qualifications; sharing confidential information from previous employers; criminal behavior; the screen name was unprofessional; or a candidate lied about an absence.

The most common reason employees provide when asked about their online behavior is that their statements are protected by the First Amendment. While this is true as it relates to government action, it has no applicability to private companies or organizations.

Those in the workplace need to understand that if what you do on social media impacts your ability to continue working for an organization, you might not be able to work there anymore.

To avoid negative outcomes from social media posts, social media users should consider avoiding posting anything that is racist or discriminatory; pictures that put them in a bad light; profanity, retweeting or reposting any of this; having an improper profile picture or screen name; or posting anything that is “funny” but offensive.

Users also should avoid voicing opinions on religion or politics or commenting about something that could be controversial.

Before posting, ask yourself, “What’s in it for me? Why am I posting this?” Users should consider what benefit will be derived from posting online.

Then ask, “What’s the worst that can happen if I post this?”

Posting a cute picture of your puppy or kids winning that hockey trophy is unlikely to yield a negative reaction. Ranting about politics or the latest news story, depending on the rant and how inappropriate it is, is a different story.

Posting things that can put you in a bad light could garner attention from co-workers and managers and could impact your job, your reputation and even your freedom if the conduct is criminal.

Also, avoid getting into arguments online with strangers. These frequently escalate to trolling and name calling. It’s tempting but not worth it.

Finally, decide whether it’s worth the consequences to post the content. If the answer is yes, then post and knowingly face the consequences.

I have seen many inappropriate posts, including from people with whom I’m connected. They feel that their posts are private and only shared with friends, but this is a dangerous mentality as content can be — and is — shared and reposted.

In general, we have no right to privacy on anything posted online.

The Atlee Little League photo originated as a Snapchat, in which pictures and messages are available only for a short time before they go away.

From the AT&T executive who lost his job over a racial meme he texted to a friend to the veterinarian who lost her job (and temporarily her license to practice) over a Facebook post of her holding a dead feral cat to the marketing specialist who lost her career over a tweet that some viewed as racist, these individuals failed to consider the potential consequences of their actions.

Social media and electronic communications are here to stay, so we all need to focus on what we post online and the potential consequences.