Think Before You Tweet!

| September 30, 2010 | Comments (0)

Not too long ago, our communication options mostly consisted of face-to-face, telephone, fax and mail.   If you wanted to call somebody, they had to actually be near a phone.  If you needed a document, it had to be sent over the telephone and printed out.  Wanted to send a birthday card? You had to give it a few days.

Then came cell phones which enabled constant connectivity (good and bad) and email gave us the ability to communicate information instantly. (Yes, this is a VERY brief time line, but hey – this is a blog, not a history book)

Even with the use of cell phones and email, you could see a society that was connected in such a way that many could have never imagined.  Now, with social media, the days of cell phones, email and message boards seem archaic.  It’s now possible to not only speak with your friends and acquaintances, but a person can broadcast their thoughts to the entire world through Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and hundreds of other online communities.

This interconnectedness has changed the way the world communicates and interacts.  It’s safe to say at this point that social media isn’t going anywhere and it WILL continue to grow and become more ingrained in society.

This can be a great thing.

Social media has given a voice to people and societies that were never heard before.  Compelling stories are being broken on Twitter and Facebook.  Creative individuals are seeing their work appreciated more than ever before.  Families and old friends are being reunited.

Even the recent tragic events at my daughter’s school, the University of Texas, proved social media’s usefulness.  Between the Facebook postings, Tweets and campus wide text messages, many students were alerted to the situation before they even put themselves in harm’s way.  This wouldn’t have been possible before.

Unfortunately, with most great things, there are drawbacks.  One of those is this – when you give everyone in the world the ability to speak publicly, you are also giving them the opportunity to over share and say things they shouldn’t.

As an attorney, I can’t stress enough the need for individuals to be extremely careful with what they are sharing online.   Many of us have heard the horror stories of relationships and careers ending because of questionable status updates and Tweets.  Add to that the obvious privacy concerns with sharing information online and common sense would say to keep as much of your private life just that, private.

A recent article in the New York Law Journal inspired me to write this blog.  It discusses the use of social media in the courtroom and goes into detail on several instances where over sharing of information online was used as evidence.

Ill-advised and sometimes damning Facebook posts, YouTube videos and Tweets are becoming commonplace in the courtroom and in pre-trial depositions and hearings.

Attorneys and judges are finding defendants denying a charges or claims and then posting the opposite of that online.  You even have instances of attorneys posting too much information online about a client or case.  People need to realize that what you post online CAN be used as evidence.  It can and will be used against you.

The best piece of advice I have for ANYONE involved in a case is to refrain from any social media use.  Nothing you say online will ever help your case, but it can certainly damage you or your client’s case.  I would even go as far as to suggest suspending your accounts just to be 100 percent sure.

Remember, regardless of whether you are dealing with a case or not, what you post online in public is just that, public.  Use common sense and avoid the complications of over sharing altogether.  Just because you CAN say it to the whole world, doesn’t mean that you should.  It’s evident that one thing hasn’t changed with the advent of social media, and that is that people can and will continue to put their foot in their mouth.

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Category: Lawyer's Advice

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