I spend the majority of my day on social media. Yep it’s true, up to 4 hours or more every single day. It’s a huge part of my job – marketing and sales for 3 different companies. I spend so much time online for business that I have actually stopped using social media for personal uses anymore, I just have no interest in it, it’s exhausting. And because of all of this time invested in online activities I am noticing a very disturbing trend, beyond disturbing actually – a complete naivete of what the internet truly is all about.
I am going to give you some context…
Twice in the past week, on two different discussion forums with business owners discussing, well business, I came across two different business people venting about their customers. Now these weren’t just generic vents like ‘Don’t you hate it when people come in 5 minutes before closing and order a 3 course meal!!!’ (used to happen ALL of the time in the restaurant industry and yep, it was vent-worthy! Please don’t do that)
These were very specific vents that if the person reading it was there or involved would know exactly who they were talking about (I have even seen some previous vents like these even include customer pictures!!!). Times, days, specifics and worse… character assassinations. I mean pretty explicit – name calling, the whole works. Now let me remind you – these are business owners talking about their customers. Online.
When I suggested that this was probably not the best business strategy, or asked how they thought their customers would feel if they read what was posted, or if they thought people who chose to give them business deserved that type of open ridicule and disrespect – I was dismissed. One owner even said to me, ‘This is a private forum, it is my safe space!!!’
No. No it is not.
This is the internet. There is NOTHING private on the internet.
How many politicians’ careers have we seen derailed in this past year alone for comments, texts, tweets, private chats, emails – that they thought were gone and forgotten or that they thought were private? How many marriages ruined over photos and messages found in cyberspace? How many ‘Can you believe this text’ shares have you seen on your newsfeed when a screenshot has been passed around ridiculing someone for something? How many people have gotten fired for posting a picture of them at the bar on their ‘private’ page when they had actually called in sick?
Let me repeat – This is the internet. There is NOTHING private on the internet.
We tell our daughters not to text pictures of themselves and to stay off the webcam – why? Because nothing is private on the internet.
But these are no hormone driven adolescents doing this, these are not octogenarians giving out their PIN number in an email. These are professional business people who should know better and yet someone they still think that the internet is some safe medium to say and do anything you want consequence free. It’s not. When it comes to venting, trust me I get it. I REALLY get it. 3 businesses, 12 staff (most of which are millennials), 4 kids and a husband… yep, I know all about venting, trust me. We need to vent, we have to unload our worries, frustrations, fears – but here is my rule of thumb…
Never post anything on the Internet (including texts, emails, chats, forums, etc), no matter how private and safe you think you are, that you wouldn’t want to see on the front page of the newspaper.
That sums it up.
The minute you press post or send, you are inviting the world to see your words, encased forever on the world wide web. If you feel strongly and would stand by those words and are willing to face them every day for the rest of your life – go ahead, post away! I am no stranger to that type of opinion sharing – it’s a big part of my business and my brand, but there is a difference between that and the anger or emotion-spewed talk you regret the moment it is out of your mouth or on the screen. The stuff you say behind someone’s back that you would never say to their face – the stuff you don’t want anyone else to know you are thinking. Those are the things you don’t want out there. Those are the things that can ruin relationships, break trusts, damage friendships and destroy businesses and careers.
This is the Internet – you are not safe from repercussions here. Consequences can be detrimental years down the road. The impact of a single hurtful vent can cost far more than the satisfaction gained by unloading in the first place.
It can be so easy to overshare. We feel so ‘connected’ to other people over a phone that we can forget there is an entire world watching. Be mindful. In work or in play. Everything you type, say or do online, is fair game. Don’t risk everything you have worked so hard for – your family, career, friendship – over a line of text you may not even feel an hour from now. Vent – but do it in a truly safe place – the arms of a loved one, a handwritten journal, meditation, prayer -whatever works for you. Just keep it offline.
You are not safe here.
~Michelle Renee Budiwski