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What not to say on social media

Yvonne Grinam-Nicholson
Wednesday, August 01, 2012


"The words you choose to say something are just as important as the decision to speak." ~Author Unknown

Everyone knows by now that social media is where the world gathers to speak, to listen and to be heard. We also know that in everyday private life there are consequences to our every action. If we speak out of turn, are rude and insult people in your conversations, the results of these actions will inevitably come back to haunt us.

In the social media sphere, when you speak your life out noisily on the world wide web and it echoes loudly, every one hears. If you misspeak it reverberates across the planet within a nano-second and everyone and his uncle has a strong and firm opinion and interpretation of what you should have said. Never mind that the topic of discussion might be out of their league or that they have chosen not to brush up on said subject matter before chiming in and giving of their ignorant best. The truth is that it is an open forum and so everyone with an idle second to spare and nothing to lose will participate. So what we learn is that there are definitely things that should not be said on social media. No one knows this now, better than 23-year old Greek triple-jump athlete and former Olympic contender, Paraskevi Papahristou, aka Voula. Her tweets which got her booted from the team two days before the big shin-dig has reinforced the dangers that lurk behind unobserved rules of social media posts.

The comment, posted in Greek on July 22, was re-tweeted over 100 times, immediately drawing angry reactions. The message translated read:"With so many Africans in Greece, at least the mosquitoes of West Nile will eat homemade food." Talk about an egg in your face moment. What was she thinking in this day and age? Even if it was meant as a joke it was very crude, insensitive at a time when everyone is carrying a banner for or against some cause or the other. When it was announced on July 25 that she had been kicked off the team, she posted an apology on her Facebook page.

This is what I saw when I visited her page:" I would like to express my heartfelt apologies for the unfortunate and tasteless joke I published on my personal Twitter account. I am very sorry and ashamed for the negative responses I triggered, since I never wanted to offend anyone, or to encroach human rights. My dream is connected to the Olympic Games and I could not possibly participate if I did not respect their values. Therefore, I could never believe in discrimination between human beings and races. I would like to apologise to all my friends and fellow athletes who I may have insulted..." Unfortunately for Voula, it was a hard way to learn how to tiptoe through the social media mine-field. What was of greater interest to me however were the comments from the rubber-neckers who had to give their two cents worth in the argument. One person even ordered Voula to do a "deep ancestry search" via NationalGeographic.com. The comment writer even recommended a kit for $99.99 that can be ordered for such a search.

The cardinal rule for the employed is that: No matter how bad things get between you and your employer, never, ever post or tweet any negative comments about them while they are still providing you with funds (meagre though they may be) to pay your rent, water and light. As my grandmother use to advise: "You cannot stay on cow back and cuss cow." Apart from being rude it smacks of ungratefulness. Plus one should always be aware that in a work world where there are "more dogs than bone" there are always someone willing and able to take your place the minute you slip. Now, after you leave the company, that is another matter for you to think about, bearing in mind that the you should never burn your bridges behind you.

People love to post pictures of themselves and their family members, including their pets. It is natural to want to show-off if you are having a good hair, body or outfit day. Unfortunately not everyone will concur with your thoughts on the matter. For example, not everyone will think that your baby is cute. Of course, it is true that others can just glance at your piece-de-resistance and move on to the next post, but there are those who walk among us who tend to want to be unkind at all times. They are the world's self-appointed critic and no topic is off limits to their acerbic wit. Be careful what you post about yourself or those close to you, you might not like what people have to say about it. And they do talk off line.

Tasteless jokes and overtly sexually suggestive cartoons and self-advertisements are contained in that seething caldron of 'don'ts' for social media. It is inevitable that someone will take your joke the wrong way because let's face it, no one has else was blessed with your rapier wit and keen sense of humour. In this regard I would advise not to push the envelope. There are jokes that belong in bars and such other places. Finally, people get tired of all those self-promoting posts. Quit it.

Yvonne Grinam-Nicholson, (MBA, ABC) is a Business Communications Consultant with RO Communications Jamaica, specialising in business communications and financial publications. She can be contacted at: yvonne@rocommunications.com. Visit her website at www.rocommunications.com and post your comments.



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