Watch Your Language

By Scott Westerman
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“What happens in Vegas stays on YouTube. ~Erik Qualman

Here is a tweet that a young woman posted on Twitter this past weekend.

“Everyone booing Obama at spartan stadium was one of the best things that has ever happened.”

Her political point of view is her own and she has the right to express it.

Here’s the problem: The decision maker at a company where she had applied for an internship happened to see it. And that decision maker happened to believe that booing a sitting president during his two second appearance in a public service announcement about sexual violence awareness was inappropriate.

This “Interior Designer looking for new opportunities” just lost a gig because of something she said on social media.

When I shared the incident on Facebook it unleashed a torrent of feedback. Here’s some of it.

“Our 18 year old son has decided that his future lies with the Marines and the 1st thing his recruiter did was to look at the last 6 months of his social media posts.”

A socially vociferous colleague wrote, “I had an entire Twitter stream literally end up on the front page of the Lansing State Journal (newspaper) a few years ago.”

One of my high school friends remembers, “When I worked for Apple, I was told first week to, ‘Never say anything in an email you wouldn’t want to see subpoenaed.'”

And Bob Benenson, former Congressional Quarterly columnist and a long time observer of Washington politics says, “People have got to remember that anything you do wrong on this medium a) can be seen and probably will be seen by exactly the people you’d never want to see it and b) never goes away.”

Erik Qualman, the guru who creates those cool annual videos about the impact of social media, shares this reality in his book, What Happens in Vegas Stays on YouTube: “Assume whatever you do, both offline and online, will be seen by… the world.”

My writer mentor, best selling author Allison Leotta, states that universities should have a class on “Discretion on Social Media” as part of the core curriculum. I agree. And this is a class that begins at home. One of my parent friends relegated her daughter to an Internet disconnected flip phone when her smartphone behaviors started not to be very smart.

Don’t get me wrong. We live in a country where you are allowed to say just about whatever you want. But remember: In the Internet age, words speak as loudly as actions. And both have consequences.

Save the politics and religion conversations for face to face interactions with people who’s opinions you value. Take H. Jackson Brown’s advice to heart. “Protect your enthusiasm from the negativity of others.”

Enthuse publicly. Vent privately.

I’ve been in this business long enough to conclude that your social media persona is a window into your soul. Yup, kids can do stupid things. We all did some “bad-judgement-one-offs”. But a pattern of past action is often a predictor of future behavior. If you wouldn’t say it to a potential boss, to soul mate, your pastor or your mom, don’t say it on social media.

So whenever you post, watch your language.