10/12/12 542 W - + 4 - 4 Glib Comments on Facebook

Pop-quiz about social media. What should you think—and what action might you perform—if you saw comments such as these posted to Facebook? Either directly as a Facebook friend, or via forwarded text or screen capture?

Wear a couple different hats while you’re answering. React as (a.) yourself, regular responder, (b.) your supervisor or chief officer, (c.) member of a body of elected officials who govern your organization, (d.) news reporter or news editor, and (e.) local citizen.

I could’ve slapped that patient we had today.

Another day protecting the idiots.

The patient is lucky I was in a good mood today.

Another crack house, should’ve let it burn.

(Fake entries above, duh.)

This quiz too easy? Guilty of leading the witnesses, your honor? Perhaps. The inspiration for this topic—and possible discussion—is this Fire Law posting about the termination of a Texas flight medic that was upheld. Let's thus ponder the possible consequences of glib comments on Facebook.

Recall the original rules of e-mail etiquette. Don't send anything you wouldn't want broadcast on the evening news, written on a sign in your front yard, or shown or told to friends, family, priest, magistrate, etc. Those were and remain sound rules.

But then came social media and texting and Facebook. And remarks sent as text messages, or posted as Facebook comments, have invariably involved less formality and less forethought. 

We toss them off, and easily because the audience is usually limited. It's just one other person who's texting with you, or it's a restricted group of Facebook friends. (Perhaps many hundreds of such friends, mind you.) But here's the problem. Whatever you wrote thus appears on a screen, and that screen can be captured and shown to other people that you weren't thinking about.

Commence paranoia? Maybe, or just a measure of healthy caution. The long tradition of blunt speaking (and black humor) at fire/EMS station doesn’t necessarily translate to the virtual day room. (Just as such verbal comments are kept out of view of, say, visiting citizens. Friends and family get a stronger ear full.)

Facebook in particular is problematic on a couple fronts. First, your identity is not concealed. This is a good thing in keeping conversations out of the toxic zone, but a liability for acute cases of “foot in mouth” diseases. (Been there, apologized for that and too many times to count.) Second, your Facebook identity is probably a combination of peers, friends, and family. You might be the rare person who is only talking to absolutely like-minded souls. Betting otherwise, however.

What’s the solution? Maybe that’s one self-evident. Be aware of your conversational surroundings and adjust your behaviors accordingly.

What say you?

Postscript #1: Public versus private employees. The aforementioned FireLaw posting is about a private employer. What about public employees and protected speech therein? Good question, but consider this: the person might keep their job, but at the cost of how much undue attention for all parties involved?

Postscript #2: Glib comments on blogs. Who wants to tackle that one?!

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