Stop and think before you hit the ‘send’ key

THE touch of a button can be a dangerous thing.It seems we spend more time hitting “send’’ than we do communicating face-to-face, and now we are living with the consequences.A report released this week shows many of us are living with social media regret – that is, we are not thinking enough about what we post and later asking ourselves why.The report, by Professor Robin Dunbar of Oxford along with the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, says more than a quarter of the 2000 adults interviewed admitted to saying something online they would never say to a person’s face.A further quarter said they regretted doing so because it was inappropriate or had upset someone.We’ve all been guilty of speaking before we think and the survey found that as we age, we learn to do the opposite.We think before we speak – or more so these days, before we hit send.We come to learn that everything we write can be taken out of context, dissected, or later used with entirely different meaning. It’s true for Facebook, Twitter or even text messaging and email. No single text or email has meaning unless put in to context as part of an entire conversation – but alone, can be damaging if shared with others and used to suit. How is it that we have lost the values of truth and privacy? At what point did private conversations become information to be shared with others? And at what point did we become so interested in the personal lives of others that we thrive on what they have to say on Facebook?It’s time to put the brake on.Yes, social media has a place and certainly, for businesses and marketing, it’s a useful tool.Facebook is also fabulous for staying connected – but with that comes responsibility.What really matters? Nurturing your personal relationships or getting bogged down in cyberspace with “friends” you may never physically see again?When you consider some of the things you post online, would you share such thoughts with strangers? How well do you know the hundreds of “friends’’ on your Facebook page, and can you trust them?Consider the quality of your online friendships and remember that every word you post could come back to haunt you.Prospective employers can learn so much about a person at the touch of a button – google your name and see for yourself. What you write now could still be lurking in cyberspace many years down the track.My grandma was always very good at minding her own business and once told me that instead of venting or getting angry, she would scrub the outhouse. The physical activity helped her calm down and gave her time to work through her thought processes. She didn’t sit around gossiping and would never consider posting her thoughts in a public forum.It’s not bad advice. We all make comments fuelled by passion and emotion, and later regret them. We are not immune to feelings and confusing them with reason.But often they’re said face-to-face, in the privacy of our homes and we are quick to make amends.But if said through a public forum, the comments are there forever and for everyone to see. The damage is out of your control and can be long-lasting.So before you hit “send” on Facebook or Twitter or any other electronic means – go for a walk, get on your pushbike or do what grandma did and scrub the loo. Clear the cobwebs and then go back to look at what you have written. Chances are that what you were about to hit “send’’ on will look very different after you have given yourself time to think. Just put the brake on – because every word matters.Nicole Ferrie is the Bendigo Advertiser’s deputy editor. Email

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