Online comments a permanent record | Guest Shot | 24 Hours Vancouver

Earlier this week, the RCMP issued a warning reminding employees it is forbidden to identify themselves as members of the force when posting personal comments or opinions on social media sites. The policy was updated specifically to address Twitter.

In a memo obtained by 24 hours, it says; “When using social media for personal use, you must always remember that you are an employee of the RCMP…the code of conduct that accompanies your employment with the RCMP is in effect both on and off duty.”

As a social media manager, I’m more aware than most of the need for tact, restraint and, dare I say, professionalism as the virtual ‘face’ of an organization. Quite frankly, I’m shocked almost daily by the utter lack of foresight seen online, in either a work or a personal capacity.

Many people seem to think the Internet is an anonymous place where anything goes and, by extension, they can get away with anything.

They range from embarrassing political gaffes that can end careers, to badly judged marketing ploys cashing in on the spate of tragedies hitting the news recently — the dreadfully insensitive tweet about the Aurora cinema shooting in Colorado being a case in point.

There's also homophobic, racist, misandrous and misogynist comments from celebs, comics, athletes and people who should really know better; it seems no-one is immune to ‘social media syndrome.’

Hell, even formerly little known British journalist Guy Adams had his Twitter account suspended – and later reinstated – due to tweets complaining about NBC’s coverage of the London Olympics, with one including the email address of the executive in charge.

Further, it doesn’t seem to matter how much is spent to prevent such online idiocy (in this case roughly $2.7 million a year in security) if you take, for example, Dell CEO Michael Dell’s daughter, Alexa, whose Twitter account recently disappeared after one of her photos was picked up by the popular Tumblr blog Rich Kids of Instagram, showing the family en route to Fiji in their not-so-private-anymore jet.

Young or old, public figure or public servant, whatever happened to good old common sense?

A simple rule to live by is if you wouldn’t want your mother, partner, friend or boss to read your comments online, then it’s probably not safe for the rest of the world.

Or, as some company social media strategies succinctly put it: don’t be stupid.

Which is easier said than done, apparently.

Read more musings on Twitter @RachelHealyIre

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