Just as text messaging and email have allowed us to communicate with each other in real time, social media has allowed us to interact with people we don’t really know; or know at all.
Sure, it’s possible to connect with others; learn about their backgrounds and interests; make new contacts; and see the likes and dislikes of people and businesses. Whether it be Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or Instagram, it is exceedingly easy for us to learn about one another.
With this in mind, have you ever stopped to consider what others can learn about you? What are your posts telling others — even strangers — about you? Many people put even less consideration into social media posts than they do into an email or text, and that creates the potential for real and unintended consequences. Just think: the pictures and memes that you originally thought were so funny and edgy might have been when viewed by your friends and acquaintances — but they may be interpreted quite differently when viewed by clients, employers, and potential clients or employers.
Social Media and Litigation
People should be aware that just as we can check out and learn about others, others can — and are — checking out and learning about us, too. More and more employers and parties in litigation are doing their homework and conducting background checks on the internet to learn about prospective employees, adversarial parties, and witnesses in a litigation. The lowest hanging fruit for investigators are Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.
While it is wonderful to be able to connect with people so easily, the caution that applies to text messages and emails should be equally applied to your social media posts. Just as you may not want to go into court and see your emails and texts displayed for all to see, you really, really do not want to go to court and be confronted with your tweets, Instagram pictures, and Facebook posts — all fodder for others to formulate instant opinions about you that, even if inaccurate, may have real life consequences.
Think before you post. Consider whether to restrict sharing your various accounts. After all, not everyone needs to know your every thought and share in your vacations and hobbies. A good rule of thumb: just as you should not disseminate a text or email that you would not want to see posted in your local newspaper, do not share thoughts and pictures on social media, without restricting access. Unless you want your clients, employers and prospective clients and employers to see them.