Monday, June 6, 2011

Weiner and the Same Old Social Media Lessons

Social media disasters seem to teach the same lessons over and over (and over) again. But apparently, some guys never learn. By now, you've probably already heard the pathetic tale of Anthony Weiner, pictured... I know, you're probably having trouble recognizing a picture of his face. In case you haven't heard, the Congressman just admitted that he engaged in inappropriate Internet activity, including publicly tweeting a picture of his "bulging underwear" to a young woman. So, what lessons did we learn (for the billionth time) about misconduct and social media?

1. Don't Engage in Inappropriate Conduct Online
Sometimes "inappropriate" is a gray area... a married congressman sending pictures of his crotch in various states of undress to women-not-his-wife meets most people's definition. I won't dwell, or finger-wag, but I wanted to start with the obvious: the easiest way to avert a social media disaster is avoiding the inappropriate behavior in the first place. And remember, the Internet never forgets.

2. Check the Recipients
Who are you sending this to? Think about it every time. Are you publicly tweeting, or sending a private direct message? Are you posting on someone's public Facebook wall, or sending them a private Facebook message? Are you replying via email to your friend, or did you hit reply all? When you're sending something private, make sure you're sending it privately... which leads nicely in to point #3...

3. NOTHING IS PRIVATE ON THE INTERNET!
This goes double if you're a high profile person... ya know, like a United States Congressman! Before idiotically tweeting his underwear to the world, Weiner only sent pictures of his genitals in "private" messages. This explains why nobody knows about them... except for everyone in the world with Internet access, thanks to conservative blogger, Andrew Breitbart.

4. Lying Only Makes it Worse
The truth will come out and you will look just as bad as if you admitted the misconduct in the first place... plus everyone will know that you're a liar. If people (the public, your wife, your employer, whatever) are willing to give you a pass for the underlying misconduct, you might not be so lucky when it comes to lying about it.

Same lessons, different day. And for employers, it may be time to double-check the ole' social media policy.

Image is public domain as work of the federal government.

Posted by Philip Miles, an attorney with McQuaide Blasko in State College, Pennsylvania in the firm's civil litigation and labor and employment law practice groups.