1. Thou shall not insult.
Online insults come a dime a dozen nowadays, whether they are made in good fun or intentionally. What might be humorous in your circle of friends might also be highly offensive and insulting in a professional setting. If you do decide to post dicey content, ensure that only you and your trusted friends can view it. Learn the ins and outs of privacy settings and permissions for each network you're on, to prevent a potentially uncomfortable conversation with the boss.
2. Thou shall not use careless grammar.
Correcting a person's grammar online seems to be a huge taboo. Maybe that's one reason why terrible writing skills and etiquette have spread like wildfire on the internet. (Read about some of the most common grammatical errors found on social media, here.) Practicing careless syntax online only enforces a bad habit that can carry over to everyday professional correspondence. Get in the habit of writing well, no matter where you're writing, and you won't have to worry about errors seeping into your work.
3. Thou shall not post incriminating pictures.
This one is self-explanatory. Rule of thumb: Don't post pictures of yourself doing things that wouldn't be acceptable in the workplace, and if you do feel the need to share your awesomely epic fun, ensure that your privacy settings are set up accordingly. There's nothing wrong in having a little fun, just be sure to conceal the aspects of your life that you don't care to share with your professional network. This way, you won't get caught with your pants down ... literally.
4. Thou shall not lie.
It is not uncommon for recruiters to use social media profiles to verify a candidate's qualifications, while also checking to see if they can't unveil any dirty little secrets that might be hiding online. If a recruiter finds something that conflicts with what an individual indicated on an application, then that is reason enough to pass on that person's candidacy. Additionally, it's not wise to call in sick and then have your employer discover from a sequence of tagged photos that you were partying it up. Be consistent and be truthful so you don't have to worry about covering your tracks.
5. Thou shall not be confrontational.
Arguing online is like fighting fire with fire and is usually pointless, so nip it in the bud before things spiral out of control. Food for thought: If you wouldn't have the same discussion in person, then you should refrain from publicizing your anger and making a fool of yourself online. Although it may be tempting to lash out, it's best to take a step back, evaluate the situation for what it's worth, and spare yourself the embarrassment and waste of energy.
Use some common sense when communicating through social networks, because you never know who is looking or will come across your profiles (e.g. your employer). Next time you are going to post something that could fall under one of the five commandments listed above, consider whether or not you would share that content in a professional environment. If not, then ensure that your privacy settings are set up to censor any information you wouldn't want to share with the folks at work.
Still not convinced? See how a couple of mindless tweets cost these people their jobs, here.
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