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Social media: Facebook is an “open” book

graphic_pantsdownA few months ago, I saw something on tv about medical students being warned not to post things on Facebook. They were talking about posting pictures of actual medical procedures. That in itself sounds bad enough to me, but the problem came in when, as the report stated, “Say you’re posting the picture of an operation on someone’s arm. And say in the picture you can clearly see a unique tattoo, a tattoo that could certainly identify that particular person. Well, guess what? You’ve just violated HIPAA regulations. Unless that patient gave you permission to post that, it’s like opening up that patient’s medical file to everyone who sees that post.”

We’ve all heard the reports about the teachers who have lost their jobs because they started ranting on Facebook about their students. We’ve heard about it in other businesses, too, where people divulged a bit too much information. We’ve heard that the police are now picking up violators of all types because they are stupid enough to post things on Facebook.

About six months ago, I was ready to drop my Facebook account. Things that I really thought should have remained private were somehow getting posted by other people, and it really got me to thinking. As someone said recently: “What you ‘like’ on Facebook really says a lot about who you really are.”


Say you did a depo, and you really impressed this attorney. Somehow or another, he lost your card, but he remembered your name. So he thinks to himself, “Hmmm, I wonder if I can find her (him) on Facebook?”

So he does a quick search, and he finds you. And I know, I know, people who are not your “friends” are not supposed to be able to see your page, but we keep hearing reports of it all the time. And there, splashed all over your home page, is your message: “Going out clubbing with my girls tonight!” — complete with a picture of you in a dress slit up to your navel and a margarita in your hand.

Look, I am not telling anybody how to live; that’s not what this article is about. What I’m saying is this: First impressions may be misleading, but they are lasting. If that did happen, is that the type of impression you would want to leave with a prospective client? So consider: What does your profile picture look like? What types of things do you regularly post? What kind of language do you use when you post things? Is profanity really appropriate?

Your life is an open book on Facebook, and you need to remember that at all times.

And speaking of what we post, one quick note that I think bears mentioning is content.

Back to the example of the medical students: Be very, very careful about your content and even about getting too specific about work. “Man, you should have seen the depo I just did! This stupid doctor works in Tampa and he’s” — Stop! Stop right there. You really don’t need to be saying anything more about that deposition. (I caught myself doing it just the other day; I thought to myself, what am I doing? I deleted the post quickly and tried to keep my comments very general for the rest of the conversation.)

Please, if you feel you need to vent about a job, or if you have questions, do it by message or by email. Again, you don’t know who could be looking at that post. It could be the attorney, or worse, the deponent. With every picture, with every post, ask yourself: “Would I want my mother looking at this?” That does it for me.