Pause and think before you ‘share’

J. Nick Augustine J.D., “The Law Publicist,” is the principal of Law Publicist Communications, an ALR/PRA, Incorporated agency. Law Publicist Communications is a legal marketing and public relations agency. Nick also offers coaching and consulting through the Pleading Drafter division, focused on management, technology and finance. Nick advises and assists attorneys in transition in public relations, marketing and practice management. Nick shares recruiting and staffing experience and tips for legal job seekers.

Attorneys in transition should beware of their permanent online record.  Many people openly share information on social media sites.  We can get a false sense of security from settings through which we supposedly control who sees the content published on our Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn pages.  Knowing social media posts can reach a viral audience, we still see many people publishing questionable content.

Thinking before posting gives us a better sense of security when we post a status update or “like” something on a friend’s wall. Real problems can be avoided by thinking, before posting, What if grandma sees this? While your grandmother might not be your friend on Facebook, there are likely other friends who share grandma’s values. A greater concern is the publishing of statements, links and content that can be easily shared on other pages and networks with one click.

Easily, and through a variety of methods, your social media website history can fall into the hands of unintended persons. Discovery requests often include social media site captures which can be analyzed for various purposes. Many attorneys advise clients not to post any derogatory content on social media pages during divorce litigation, for example. Using expert witnesses, some lawyers seek the opinion of mental health professionals who are asked to review one’s social media site activity. What might they say about you?

It is not what you said, but what you failed to say that can set some people off.  Some who are privy to inside information might understand an implied message. Others who don’t have that insight might think your statement is odd, and they can interpret unintended meaning. This is a particular problem with sarcastic and dry comments; while some or most people “get” the joke, others might be offended.

Your social media publishing history might also be scrutinized by potential employers. Imagine that some of your contacts on social media sites have very opposing viewpoints. Which ones will know you are kidding or are serious when you publish certain comments or you “share” or “like” other’s content. Your best bet is learning the practice of sanitizing your posts and refraining from commenting on certain topics. Religion and politics are good discussions to avoid online.

When major news breaks, people talk about it online and share their cheers and jeers. Your biggest sports rival may be the place where a news event takes place, and when people make off-hand jokes, a reader not in privy to your rivalry, might think you’re a real jerk if you make an off-hand comment. Consider that your current employers may also take a look at what you say about current events. Does the boss think you “talk too much” or might be the type of person who might be a liability?

How many status updates do you think it takes to form an opinion about someone? How much time do you really think people spend critically analyzing the thought behind status updates? It is more likely that people take things for face value and assign attributes to people who make certain comments. Keeping a clean and objective presence on social media is a good policy. If you are looking for specific etiquette from your friends, then you should let them know you want to keep your wall and comments clean and neutral, for example. In my experience, most people understand and respect other’s social media pages. We spend so much time building a reputation; don’t undo it by being irresponsible online.

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