Watch what you say in public

Liz Stephens, Columnist

My favorite thing to tell my friends while jokingly arguing is, “Don’t say or do anything you don’t want me to write about and/or have published one day.” The saying has resonated with me ever since I started joking about it, because it proves that whatever you say or do, you may be able to apologize for it, but it won’t be forgotten.

Some of the interactions get published, such as me previously writing about a heated debate about needle exchange programs being provided in states for addicts that happened in my English class last semester. My professor enjoyed that I wrote a column about the debate and ended up wanting me to use it as the basis for an entire project, while the students I wrote about and quoted had a “oh no, you didn’t” moment.

I do not think the classmates I quoted quite realized how bad their words would sound repeated back to them.

This is where the “not saying or doing anything you wouldn’t want published” comes in.

Nowadays, it’s so easy for the good, bad and ugly forms of content to be published and go viral on many social media platforms and contain the potential to ruin a student’s future career.

A speaker at a journalism convention that my coworkers and I attended last February gave a lecture about keeping social media platforms clean from things people would not want their future employer to see. They discussed how a journalist was denied a reporting job because their Facebook showed their political bias and warned about posting too many of our own opinions regarding controversial topics on social media.

I am not advising people to obsess and think about what they are saying or doing every waking moment or to not have fun. On the other hand—if someone goes and does something crazy like streaking down Lincoln Avenue at 2 a.m., they can’t complain if it is documented and breaks the Internet.

It is not just what you post on the Internet that could impact you down the road, but often there are smaller things as well.

For me it is my daily interactions with people—what I do and what I say that I am conscious of on a regular basis.

I would be mortified if some of the people who I said and did not-so-nice things to in high school wrote about it and had it published. The thing is, I would have no legal grounds to claim defamation or slander because the story would be true and could potentially be proven. The things people do and say to others are part of their stories, and it is their option to tell them.

What goes around truly does come around—and what people reap they will sow in life.

It’s important to realize that reaping what you sow is not only relevant to how you conduct your online presence, but also how you interact with others.

Liz Stephens can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].