In the early part of the 20th century a famous author of some note named Mark Twain made a quote that has been used countless times since; “It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.”
In more modern terms, he was basically saying “keep your mouth shut so you don’t look like an idiot”.
In today’s modern, ultra-connected world, Twain’s words are more relevant than ever before. It only takes a quick look online at practically any news website to find a “tweet”, Facebook post or other social media post that has caused “outrage” and condemnation, sometimes to the detriment of the poster’s good name and possibly even their career.
In other words, a seemingly innocuous social media post can have grave consequences, making you look like an idiot but also, these days, also affecting your pocketbook.
Unfortunately, words that are posted on social media can be (and often are) completely taken out of context and, depending on what the subject matter is, can be misconstrued by millions of people. Unlike making a silly joke or “off-color” remark to a friend or family member, doing the same thing online means possible revelation to vast amounts of viewers around the world. When that many people are involved, there’s bound to be a few (and sometimes more than a few) who take your silly comments and twist them into something much worse.
Let’s face it, we’ve all said and done stupid things in our lives that we’re glad the entire world never found out about. However, when you do that stupid thing on social media, it never goes away. Add that to the fact that it can be “shared” extremely easily with people all over the planet and you have a recipe for disaster.
In fact, the effects of one single mistake on social media can cause reverberations that are quite serious. People have lost their jobs, lost friends and, in some cases (thankfully rare) have even lost their lives due to an ill-timed or off-color remark posted on Twitter, Facebook and other social media websites.
Even if a social media post doesn’t cause some type of immediate, negative response, it hurt you in other ways in the future. For example, if you apply for a job and your potential new boss checks your social media accounts and finds that you’ve made insensitive comments or crude jokes (or posted pics of yourself in embarrassing situations) there’s a good possibility that they won’t offer you the job.
What it boils down to is this; social media is a double edge sword. Sure, it might be fun to post something silly that you think is funny but, almost always, there are people who won’t think it’s funny and take it out of context. Your best bet is, before you make any type of post to social media, to wait 10 seconds and ask yourself “Is there a chance someone might take this out of context or be offended?”
If the answer is yes, it might behoove you to keep your social media mouth closed, lest people perceive you to be a fool or much worse. (With all due apologies to Mark Twain.)