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We have all seen stories on the television news, read stories in the newspaper or social media sites and have heard horror stories of what teenagers or college students have posted online. What they have posted them has gotten them in big trouble with their parents, could prevent them from getting into the college of their choice or a good job and generally caused themselves and their family embarrassment.

Ask a teen or a college student about how many times they have heard their parents tell them what is not OK to post or share on social media and you will hear thousands and thousands. They seem to be getting the message or finding social media sites that are more discrete.

Yet, the irony is adults seem to be worse offenders than teens, in some ways, when it comes to inappropriate posts. I can’t count how many times I have seen a community member’s or business owner’s Facebook page with a post and shook my head, thinking you have to be kidding. Or that’s just a really bad public relations move.

What I find troubling is when a business owner takes great care to cultivate his professional image, but then shoots the hell out of it on a social media site.

In a time when we all think we can share what we want or say what we want, there really needs to be someone saying, “Time Out.”

Here are some simple rules adults should remember when using social media sites:

  1. Be discrete – It’s one thing to have coffee or a glass a wine with your friends and dish the dirt. But when it comes to social media, please think before you post the picture of you lip locking with a total stranger on the dance floor, chugging shots, flaunting your scantily clothed body or anything else that would cause a character on Downton Abbey to wonder where your class and manners are. Note: When I see a business owner posted on Facebook he’s had two bottles of wine and a couple cocktails, I begin to question if this is who I want to work with. Little things like “The day has been stressful. Out drinking it off with the girls,” causes me concern. Here’s the thing – do what you want but be discrete about it.
  2. Keep it to yourself – It’s not even 2016 and I already have friends who don’t want to be on Facebook anymore because of the negativity taking place with the 2016 presidential candidates. If you plan to campaign, make sure you do so in a manner that is respectful and polite. Calling someone an idiot, liar or loser is never a good idea – even if he disagrees with you. Remember everyone has a least one friend, who has one friend, who has … well you get it. Every time you offend one person, you really are upsetting his friends and family too.
  3. Just because you are having a lousy day…. There’s a business owner I know who every time something goes wrong – which seems to be often – the business owner lets everyone on Facebook know. Whether she got dumped by her boyfriend or is struggling to find new clients, we all get to hear about it. TMI – Too Much Information. I had a basketball coach who taught us when we stepped on his court, we left all our baggage behind. We didn’t worry about grades, upcoming tests, fights with boyfriends – none of it belonged on the court. When you are a business owner, be professional. Don’t share too much.
  4. The 24-hour rule. When we read a post on Facebook or another social media site that offends us, the first thing we want to do is quickly respond. Don’t. Wait 24 hours. Or at least an hour. Never respond to something right away because you will end up saying something you regret.
  5. Customize – Be smart. If you want to share any of the above – go for it. It’s your choice. But think before doing so. Maybe your banker will laugh at you crazy dancing while your pastor may find it offensive. Know what you can share with whom. Be selective about who you share your information with. And remember once you share it, someone can take a screen shot or share it. We take great care to protect our identity from being stolen – take the same care when it comes to your reputation. Once it’s out there, it’s hard to get back.

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