Before you hit send on that social media post, think, before you think!

In junior high I had an incredible English teacher who was known for her quick wit. But she detested a few things: bad grammar, bad manners and bad excuses. During many of her classes we would often hear the phrase: “Think, before you think, before you speak.” She impressed upon her students the importance of being intentional in how you write and speak.

Fast-forward a few years (okay, more like fifteen) and my grammar is still atrocious but I apply her advice to most things that come out of my mouth, online and offline.

What about freedom of speech? 

We all have opinions and because of the freedoms we’ve been afforded we’re allowed to share opinions freely. But free speech has limitations and free speech does not mean free from consequence. *If your free speech (1) incites hatred, (2) against an identifiable group, and that incitement is (3) likely to cause a breach of the peace, you can be charged with a crime. (from CBC) Before posting online, take a minute to consider the following:

  • When you read your comments back to yourself, do they have the intended meaning?
  • If your comments made headlines across the country, would you be happy or mortified?
  • If friends, family, a boss or clients see your comment, would you be comfortable defending it offline as well?
  • Does your comment add value to the conversation?
  • Do the headline check: if my comments went across the country in a newspaper headline, would I be happy or embarrassed?

At times anyone can find themselves reactive and unnecessarily harsh without realizing it. (I’m human, I’ve been there!) There are countless examples of people both famous and otherwise, who have posted and shared inappropriate comments, photos and information.  But if we slowed down for a minute and consciously considered what we’re posting we could probably avoid embarrassing situations and serious repercussions (e.g.: getting fired from your job.)

Review sites are a great example of when you should really ‘think before, you think before you post’ – especially when you use your real name. You should be mindful that your words are available for everyone to see and you’re responsible for them (defamation still exists online.) That responsibility and accountability can come at a hefty price.  e.g.: after leaving a nasty review on a review site, you can be taken to task…. like being sued for $750,000.

 Remember that just because you think you’re anonymous online, you’re not.  

Consider Facebook groups like Class of DDS 2015 Gentlemen. This was a group of men from Dalhousie University’s dentistry program who were shared “disturbing, sexually explicit posts” on a group page (Read full story.) And then once they realized their private group was no longer private, posted: “RED ALERT!!!!! RED F–KING ALERT!!!!! Apparently one of the ladies has seen or heard something about the recent posts in the gentleman’s. We have to get rid of the evidence.” Even when you delete comments and posts, they can live on forever in the form of screenshots.

Our digital footprints tell our story. Even if your comments or posts are made innocently, they can have serious and unintended repercussions. Work hard to think, before you think, before you post. If you choose to post, be ready to stand beside what you’ve said because in the digital world, your comments can live on well after you’ve deleted them.