Congressman Anthony Weiner’s recent troubles with Twitter got me thinking about how many times I’ve done the same thing. Well, not exactly the same thing; but you know what I mean: sending what was intended to be a private message (a DM in Twitter speak) as a public message (an @ message in Twitter speak). I know I’ve done it. We are still in the Wild West phase of all this new electronic communication we call social media and plenty of mistakes like Weiner’s are being made.
Don’t be a Weiner
Here’s my list of tips to help you not be a Weiner:
1. Never send inappropriate pictures of yourself via any social media outlet. No, really just don’t do it. Even private messages have a way of making their way into the public space. Heck, text messages sent to and from Tiger Woods ended up being public.
2. Take time to learn any social media channel before relying upon it to send and receive messages from friends and business associates. Each of the channels like Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin has its own idiosyncrasies, which is important to understand before sending messages of a sensitive nature.
3. Public conversations in social media are just that public. On some networks like Facebook, only your friends can see them and on others, like Twitter, the whole world can see them. In either case, think of it as a conversation in a crowded restaurant where anyone could overhear and share the conversation with those you might not want to hear it. Would you talk about a sensitive business deal where competitors could overhear the details?
4. Private messages are only as private as your level of trust with the individual with whom you are exchanging the message. Screen captures can be collected and made public. Make sure you know who you are messaging within the private space.
5. No electronic communication is secure. All the networks can be hacked in various ways. It’s just a little something to think about when sending messages that are sensitive or of an inappropriate nature.
There is plenty of gloom and doom in these tips, but sometimes we all need to be scared straight. In general, I do the following: In public messages I keep it light, fun and stick to generalities and in private messages, I know who I’m communicating with, share specifics and remain appropriate. It’s really that simple.
To Congressman Weiner: I’m sorry I didn’t think of writing this for you sooner.