In only a few short years, we have become voracious consumers of social media. We have even reached the point where many of us feel we cannot go one day without interacting with "friends" on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other popular social media sites. But have we fully grasped how public our lives have become?
Every post and tweet is potentially available to everyone. That's right. Everyone. Facebook users can limit interactions to groups of friends. But who is to stop your buddy Fred from reposting your "private" comment on his open Facebook page. "Hey, did you hear what Joe said about his boss?" And who is to stop someone who sees that from copying and pasting your comment into a blog or email?
And tweets can go viral instantly. Celebrities have received death threats over what they thought were innocuous tweets made at the spur of the moment. And federal lawmakers have lost their jobs over indiscreet Twitter posts. Even so, many of us still have the illusion that what is posted online is somehow private.
We must dispense with that false notion. Professional people, who have reputations to uphold and appearances to maintain, cannot afford to drop their guards when it comes to social media, even when they transition from professional roles into private ones. After that tie or those pumps come off, posting on social media is not like going to the bar with friends after work.
If you think you can anonymously post anything online, be forewarned. Every one of your posts and text messages could be monitored or cataloged somewhere. And with enough attention and energy brought to the exercise, every communication you have created on every website you've visited can be traced back to you.
When at work, make it a rule to never email friends from your office computer or text friends using company-provided smart phones. Even when you are "off the clock," watch what you post for consumption by colleagues who are also friends. Regrettably, what you text in a supposed private conversation could have profoundly negative repercussions for your employment if your co-workers share it in ways you hadn't envisioned. The Internet and mobile phones are integral to our lives. However, they can also become invasive. Most payment pros carry smart phones with cameras that not only take still shots, but also video footage. When you are out in public with colleagues, you could do something dumb (intentionally or not) that is then uploaded to a social media site for all the world to see.
You can't rely on others to show discretion with an embarrassing moment captured via smart phone. You can only remain alert and realize your role as a payment pro and organization representative is no longer limited to the hours you are officially on the job.
As social media consumers, we reveal ourselves online to potentially millions of people, yet many of us avoid making eye contact with other passengers when on a bus. And some folks say outrageous things on social media they would never say to someone in person.
The best strategy is to bring the online you more into alignment with the in-person, professional you. Make decorum and discretion your default setting. Before posting a comment online, ask yourself if you would say it aloud to another person at a tradeshow. If the answer is no, delete the comment and post something more appropriate.
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