Copy of #TheSafeSpace Column published in the Times Of Swaziland on the 8th of June 2016:
In this day and age, the use of social media for many can be likened to second nature. Unfortunately, the fact that posting status and tweeting comes with ease, a lot of individuals have been caught up in some rather compromising situations which have led some to lose their jobs. In a bid to learn from the misfortune of others, people have taken to including disclaimers on their profiles such as ‘views are my own’ and ‘retweets are not endorsements’. Well, those disclaimers might help one sleep easy at night but the truth is, if you cross the line, no disclaimer will save your reputation, brand or job.
Once you have something to lose professionally, everything changes. Once you have an actual audience that feeds on what you share, everything changes. The expectations on you from the audience and those who have put you in such a position (like your boss) rise to levels that many find unrealistic. In response to this, some will say, ‘Wait a minute, this is my personal account and I can say whatever I want to say’. Unfortunately things don’t work like that in today’s world. When you decide to take that job or affiliate yourself with that brand, you basically give away certain freedoms that others might enjoy. In today’s world, people often find it difficult to differentiate you as person from you as the manager, artist, architect or whatever profession you are in. It might seem unfair but your words or actions become directly tied to the company, agency or organization that you represent. As you get carried away on social media, the issue starts being less about you as a person and more about the entity that you represent. When this happens, your bosses or board members get nervous because you have willingly decided to sabotage their bread and butter. This is how people get fired.
Depending on the severity of your infringement(s), these disclaimers offer you no legal protection whatsoever. One cannot tweet about racism, drugs, child pornography or violence against women and expect to point to the disclaimer when they lose their job. If anything, these disclaimers are dangerous because their offer a false sense of security and reality. It all boils down to understanding that you can’t have your cake and eat it too. If you are in high profile position, I am sure that you have lots of perks that come with it, unfortunately the downfall is that your words will be always be under the radar. If you want to have your say on anything under the sun then quit your job, restart your social media accounts and do your best to be an Average Joe. Finally, we all lose our way from time to time but it is crucial that we always seek to improve our social media conduct, learn from our mistakes and build audiences that will in turn build our careers and not tempt the audiences to tear our careers into pieces.
Feel free to share your comments with me through Twitter (@chr1sfleming), blog (www.chr1sfleming.wordpress.com) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org. Until we meet again, goodbye.