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Should I Not Have Posted That?

How to Manage Your Personal — and Professional — Reputation Online

Give yourself the billboard check. If you wouldn’t put it on a billboard in your neighborhood with your mom and your boss driving by, then you shouldn’t post it. Because that is exactly what you’re doing. Trust that gut instinct that says, “Wait.” 

Check your motivation. Be honest about what’s driving the urge to say a thing, especially something you know you could regret. Are you angry? Hurt? And is posting in any way an attempt to: get under someone else’s skin, infuriate a frenemy, make your ex jealous? I’m not saying you can’t use social media to achieve your own ends, but be wary of using it to scratch an emotional itch. Because more often than not, you’re not as subtle as you think. 

Think about what your posts say about you. I’m a big fan of Simon Sinek (check out his TED talk on how great leaders inspire action). He says people don’t just buy what you do; they buy why you do it. So, it’s worth giving some serious thought to what you stand for and how you are using social media to get you there. Rather than using it as a platform for mouthing off, hold yourself to a higher standard via a mission you can get behind. Bottom line, what do your posts say about you? And is it something you want said? 

Friend with care. In the race to have many followers, you likely have in your cache of “friends” what we would call “mixed company.” It’s worth taking a look at who’s in the room, but also why they’re there. Of course, this is best addressed before you’re connected on social media. You may think you’re being “nice” to let everyone in the door, but you may be left doing damage control. Who do you want to be seeing your posts and why? 

Case in point: Alexis*, a freelancer who used to write for me and my fellow editors when I worked at Whole Living, friended us all on Facebook. The relationship between writers and their editors is special; I’ve made many friends that way and it's that connection that makes great writing happen. But you know what wasn’t a great idea? Posting that though she had so many deadlines, F- it! She was going surfing. The decision to catch a wave was her business, but rubbing it in our faces was not a great idea. Especially when those were our deadlines she was shirking.  

Don’t process pain in real time. I have taught and participated in countless writing workshops. And what I tell my students holds for you too: If you’re not at peace with a situation, you’re not ready to write about it. Being in the midst of trying to sort through your own feelings is not the right time for feedback. Trust me. Not from your teacher or thoughtful classmates — and certainly not from flyby Facebook friends. When I was going through a breakup a few months ago, I was tempted to share what I was going through in real time, but knew I was not of sound mind to do so. Instead, I waited and wrote it up later to share. In the past tense. 

Just because you can share anything, anytime, doesn’t mean you should. Social media can be a powerful tool to share something you believe in, make new friends, spark ideas and conversations, and even spirited debate. But when you feel the urge to connect — out of boredom, loneliness, or just because you’re upset, opt for a private dispatch instead. Nothing feels quite as satisfying as a real-life conversation.  

*Not her real name.

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