The next time you are ready to post something on your favorite social media platform, remember that there are no take backs on Internet. Your digital footprint will increasingly carry far more weight — perhaps even more than your resume.
The recent poster child for bad behavior on the social media front serves as yet another example of how quickly one can find him or herself in hot water with just a few quick screen taps.
This time Guardians of the Galaxy Director James Gunn was fired by Disney for making jokes about pedophilia and rape on Twitter. “I used to make a lot of offensive jokes,” Gunn said via Twitter. “I don’t anymore. I don’t blame my past self for this, but I like myself more and feel like a more full human being and creator today.”
Gunn isn’t alone. Across most industries we’re seeing just how tricky it can be to navigate the intersection of career and social media. Just one politically-incorrect statement on Facebook, one combative tweet, or one offensive Instagram photo can create a virtual maelstrom of trouble.
The World Economic Forum (WEF) says building and managing a healthy identity (both online and offline) with integrity; understanding the nature of digital footprints (and their real-life consequences) and managing them responsibly; and being empathetic towards one’s own and others’ needs and feelings onlineare three of the best ways to teach children how to have positive digital footprints.
As adults, we could all learn a thing or two from this youth-focused advice from the WEF. Namely, how to conduct ourselves online in an era where many high-profile individuals are instead choosing to take the “low” road.
Four Positive Principles to Follow
Each time you post a tweet, upload a photo to Facebook, or share content online, remember, the Internet literally never forgets — any inappropriate photos, poorly thought out comments, or questionable content becomes part of your digital footprint.
There are no “take backs” in social media, where even an errant tweet that’s quickly deleted can be screenshotted and shared with the world within seconds. Whether you are a student, or the head of a 5,000-employee enterprise, leading responsibility in the era of social media requires a focused, conscientious approach that’s rooted in these four principles:
Post With Empathy
The action of understanding, being innately aware of, sensitive to, and/or vicariously undergoing the feelings, thoughts, and experiences of another of either the past or present, empathy is particularly valuable during periods of disruption or uncertainty. That’s because empathy helps us be approachable, stokes open dialogue, and encourages high levels of sharing. A dose of empathy goes a long way in the world of social media, where the audience is both broad and diverse. Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes can open up new lines of communication, create new levels of understanding, and help everyone achieve common goals.
He needs no introduction, and it’s no secret that the Dalai Lama is one leader whose contributions are highly inclusive by nature. It’s no different on Facebook:
An intention or policy of including people who might otherwise be excluded or marginalized, an inclusive approach goes a long way on social media, where being open to diverse perspectives is imperative. Twitter, Facebook, and other platforms can also help bring awareness to our diversity and our intent for inclusivity.
With 17.7 million followers, Pope Francis has a lot of eyeballs waiting for his next tweet, most of which simply ooze inclusivity:
Always Go For The High Moral Ground
There’s a time and a place for arguing and defending your ground, and social media isn’t it. Getting into arguments in the virtual setting — where all eyes can see who’s saying what to whom — doesn’t fly. Aim for the higher ground by always maintaining a professional tone and keep the backbiting and insult-throwing out of the conversation.
Politics in America is a deeply polarizing, divisive topic today, but Harvard Business School Professor and former Metronic CEO Bill George uses his articles to address touchy topics in a diplomatic way:
“Much has been written about the harm that President Donald Trump’s trade wars will do to American farmers, manufacturers, and their employees. That is all true. But the real losers in this ‘America First’ initiative will be American consumers. If President Trump follows through on his threats, U.S. consumers will see rapid rises in the prices of everything from T-shirts to automobiles to new homes.”
Display courage. As with all situations, everything can’t be good all the time. But people will naturally look to others for guidance and support in both the good and the bad times. Don’t be afraid to challenge the status quo, share your mission, set boundaries, and/or stand behind your values.
With 350k plus Twitter followers and an active presence across numerous social media platforms, actress Ashley Judd boldly stands up for causes like the #MeToo movement and human rights:
Eternal Footprints in the Digital Sand
The next time you pull up your favorite social media platform online, remember that everything you do there will impact you and everyone around you.
Just like you’d avoid a bar fight or a road rage incident in the real world, it is important to keep your image and reputation in mind in the virtual world. Let us use social media for what it was intended: to ‘engage’ with others, keep people informed, share your knowledge, and to create open communications.
As tech journalist John Battelle told the New York Times,“We are living online, but have yet to fully realize the implications of doing so. One of those implications is that our tracks through the digital sand are eternal.”
Copyright © 2018 by Faisal Hoque. All rights reserved.
I am an entrepreneur and author. Founder of SHADOKA and other companies. Shadoka enables aspirations to lead, innovate, and transform. Shadoka’s accelerators and solutions bring together the management frameworks, digital platforms, and thought leadership to enable innovation, transformation, entrepreneurship, growth and social impact.
Author of “Everything Connects — How to Transform and Lead in the Age of Creativity, Innovation and Sustainability” (McGraw Hill) and “Survive to Thrive: 27 Practices of Resilient Entrepreneurs, Innovators, and Leaders” (Motivational Press). Follow me on Twitter Faisal Hoque. Use the Everything Connects leadership app and Suvvive to Thrive resiliancy app for free.