Many, many years ago I was on the stairmaster at the gym. The two people next to me were flirting, which included the young woman gossiping about a public official. I was a lobbyist at the time, and I happened to personally know said public official. I slid off my machine and casually told the young woman: “You should be careful who you’re gossiping about. You have no idea who you’re standing next to.” And I left. I don’t know if I made an impression on her, but she made an impression on me. When I’m in an elevator, at a restaurant, or out on the street, I have no idea who I am standing next to. If I take that moment to speak out of turn, be rude, gossip … well, I’ll never know the damage I just caused to myself. The same lesson applies to our electronic footprints, particularly on Facebook. I have a very wide range of “friends” on Facebook. We are all over the map geographically, ideologically, religiously and politically. Some people are close, personal friends and family. Other are colleagues, former classmates, and members of my personal community. I am open to any type of political discussion taking place on my Wall as long as it remains respectful to all involved. I do not allow conversations to digress into name-calling. Period. And, yes, I’ve been known to delete conversations that get out of hand. With only a week before the interim-elections, I would caution us all:  One or some of your Friends will post something you disagree with, and that’s A-OK. The question is: “How will you respond?” I think debate is good. I think differences of opinion and ideology make for a more engaged and educated electorate. I think it REALLY important that people realize that not everyone agrees with everything they believe in. However, we are not wholly anonymous to one another. And, just because we are posting something from the privacy of our homes, does not make it private. Take heed: ANYTHING you post can be seen by your client, potential client, referral source or an influencer within your network. I might not be friends with my boss on Facebook, but how can I be 100% certain we’re not friends of friends?? For that matter, what is the degree of separation between you, the reader, and me? How can any of us be certain that the “wrong” person won’t read something we wrote and make a critical judgment about us from that?? Once again, ask yourself: “How do I want to be perceived by the silent majority of viewers of any Facebook post?”  “Well, we obviously don’t agree on the gubernatorial candidates, but I enjoyed the debate” or “What an A******!” For some reason, there’s never an in between. I don’t think anyone should feel that they cannot have a voice, or fear reprisal for having a political ideology that is not shared by another. Unfortunately, not everyone shares this enlightened position. So consider this your warning. Think before you post. Here some tips to remember before you hit that “share” button or leave a comment:

  • Be respectful.
  • If commenting on someone else’s Wall, take their personal politics into account (just as you would if you were in their home).
  • Avoid insults, name-calling and petty debates, especially with people you don’t personally know.
  • Pause before commenting and ask yourself: “Do I REALLY need to say this?”

And remember,

  • Sarcasm and humor do not necessarily translate.