Fair warning: Think before you post (Part 2 of 2)

“You are free to post whatever you like. You are not free of its consequences however.”

(Continued from last week’s issue…)
Your postings at all social networking sites define who you are and delineate your character to the world. Your thoughts, your ideas and comments, your images, even your choice of words give an insight to your personality and character traits. They reflect your values, give a hint of your weaknesses and vulnerabilities and can be a measure of the size of your ego. Taken altogether, they paint a composite picture of you.

Even the amount of time you spend on online games is a sliver of insight into your interests and how you spend your free time. It may be indicative of whether you are near the brink of obsessive-compulsive behavior or a candidate for the nuthouse.

Unfair? Of course it is. It is a flat and one-dimensional picture of who you are. You are a far more complex person than what your Facebook and Twitter postings give you credit for. But based on available information that you yourself provided, that’s how you want the people that orbit in your universe see you. Take heed from a phrase that police officers read to suspects, “ … Anything you say (and in social networking, what you post) can and will be taken against you…”

If you have posted something offensive, ranting and raving at someone or something as a gut reaction to a situation that angers you, you would get the instant gratification of venting your ire. But do think about the far-reaching consequences of being hauled off to court and wasting your time and money defending yourself.

A story is told of a CFO of a pharmaceutical firm earning $200,000 per year and with stock options worth $1 million. A few years back, he decided to take advantage of the free water offered in a Chick-fil-A drive thru as a ruse for his hidden agenda to film himself berating the staff who served him the water so he can attack the corporation’s stand on traditional marriage.

He recorded himself saying some awful words to the staff member who was stunned but remained gracious under fire despite the unwarranted attack. The guy then gleefully posted his video on youtube. Upon returning to his office, his secretary was in shock because of the overload of emails sent to him by people who took umbrage against his action.

To make a long story short, the married father of four was fired from his job, lost his home and his possessions reducing his status to live on food stamps. He found another job but when it was discovered that he was the author of that video, he was fired again. He has since then apologized to the staff member but maintains his position. No job offers seems to be forthcoming though. He has written a book about his experience and hopes that his book sells. Here is hoping he is able to recover from this debacle.

In the internet, karma can be swift and unforgiving. Not only do we now live in a sue-happy, highly litigious environment, we also have to deal with unpredictable backlash. Your posts are evidentiary proof.

You are free to post whatever you like. You are not free of its consequences however.

So if you’re angry, try venting the old fashioned way. Punch a bag. Break some plates. Or sweat it out and take a cold shower. Write if you have to vent as a form of release but give yourself a week or two to cool down and pull yourself together. Write it, then trash it.

Think of posting to the public as ripping a pillow filled with countless goose down feathers to the four winds. Damage is beyond repair. Someone once said that you cannot take something off the internet. Someone can always save and screen shot your post and repost it if you delete it yourself. It’s like peeing in a pool.

It is quite easy for professional internet sleuths to find out where a message posting comes from even if you try to cover your tracks with bogus identities. 9 out of 10, you will be unmasked. Like it or not, transparency has become the nature of this wired world.

Of course, as it is playing out on the political stage at the moment, a noted political figure has wiped her internet server clean to erase all emails and proof of possible wrongdoing.

Is there a technology out there that can undelete deleted emails? How about recipients of those emails who have their own servers? This drama bears watching if only to see if it is really true that emails can be wiped out clean.

For now, you will be held accountable and may have to plead temporary insanity to free yourself from the sticky mess of your own doing. Increasingly, the justice system has come to rely on words in documents, images in photos and videos on the internet and DNA matches, as irrefutable evidentiary proof.

As they often say in the movies, but no longer as empty bluster these days, “You can run, but you can’t hide.” The ease with which we send and receive information is matched only with the ease with which messages are traced and tracked back to the original source. This is the reason why terrorists and kidnappers revert back to the old fashioned, slow way of communication — coded messages by couriers on beasts of burden, for fear of being traced.

Your postings and when you log on to Facebook, particularly during work hours, can get you fired. Employers are exercising their right to be picky when there are others out there who may be qualified to take your job.

As in anything, balance, good old common sense and a smidgen of humility should guide us all while social networking. Since we still live in a physical world, what is real still trumps what is merely virtual.

Or you can just log off, canoodle with a loved one or go fly a kite with your kids.

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The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the Asian Journal, its management, editorial board and staff.

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Nota Bene: Monette Adeva Maglaya is SVP of Asian Journal Publications, Inc. To send comments, e-mail [email protected]

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