The Five Rules of Social Media Etiquette

Just this week, a US court slashed maintenance payments to an ex-wife because of her blog posts. It can happen where users of social media don't think before they post. Once they post, it is out there for just about anyone to see and even use.

Just today an acquaintance told me her mother-in-law wrote a defamatory statement on Facebook about her. Although she let it roll off her shoulders, I was surprised that someone would do that to a family member.

A leading family law firm Bross Bennett warns how damaging digital communications can be if used incorrectly, with detrimental affects going further than recipients and online communities and right into the courts of law. Just this week, a US court slashed maintenance payments to an ex-wife because of her blog posts. It can happen where users of social media don’t think before they post. Once they post, it is out there for just about anyone to see and even use.

“It’s important that everyone thinks about the possible consequences before they type. They don’t think about the impact of what they have done, and we have seen firsthand just how damaging the written word can be in a court of law,’ says Sharon Bennett of Bross Bennett, “especially in the case of divorcing couples who send aggressive tweets, texts or emails in the heat of the moment. People need to remember that not only can these pour fuel on an already flaming relationship; they can later be used against them as written evidence.”

On the other hand, Bennett says, “If used correctly, modern technology can be very helpful. For divorcing couples in particular, texting and emailing can be a great way to help you avoid confrontational verbal conversations. Modern technology allows us the luxury of time to think and create a constructive response that can diffuse a situation and preserve your dignity, something that can be very hard face to face.”

As a way to keep oneself in check, here are five rules of good social media etiquette:

1. Before you post or send anything that may be inflammatory or controversial, wait for 24 hours, after which you’ll be able to consider what you’re writing more objectively. Try and think how your communication will be viewed if read out of context, perhaps by your child or a Judge.

2. Don’t respond to or initiate inflammatory language, and resist replying immediately to anything you do receive of this nature. If you feel you have to respond, adopt the 24 hour delay rule. Get your thoughts and feelings down on paper, but give yourself a day or two to reflect on your response.

3. Consider getting the input of someone you trust before you send anything other than the most simple of communications. They can give you invaluable and constructive advice and remove any sting that you may not even have been aware was there.

4. Do not ever vent your frustrations on Facebook or Twitter, where things can ‘mushroom’ and get out of hand. Anything of this nature can end up being viewed very unfavorably by a judge in a court of law and your children or family might be very hurt by it.

5. Treat correspondence as business-like and straight to the point, rather than emotional – there are better ways and places to express this.

Looking over these five steps, you might think of a friend, an acquaintance or even a celebrity where these steps were not followed. I am sure you saw someone get hurt or feel acrimonious by such a digital communication. Although at the time of the post or text, it might seem justified. But, like the rules say it’s a good idea to wait and ask yourself if the harsh words help in the end.