Brought into sharp focus by certain high-profile figures, and the bandwagon of recent public controversies and debates, social media is under a spotlight as never before.
In its most acceptable form, this new communications platform offers tremendous opportunity for groups and individuals to engage creatively and positively with each other.
Yet, those who look to it in seeking to foster healthy and active online engagement (whilst helping to manage risks and prevent misuse) would be advised to take note of the following recently published guidelines.
They advise all concerned to exercise courtesy and responsibility at all times when using social media. More pointedly, they recommend that we ask the following questions of ourselves when preparing to post a comment or image:
Would the content of my message breach a confidence?
Would I want my family and friends to read it?
Would I want to see it published on the front page of a major newspaper?
Would I speak its content from a public platform, or write it in a letter, broadcast it on radio or television, or include it in a circular, newsletter or some other medium?
Will it be damaging to my own good name and reputation or cause anyone to think less of me?
Does what I am writing reflect a compassion worthy of the person I am, or would like others to believe I am?
Where it might concern a disagreement, have I tried to resolve it privately beforehand or could its publication only deepen the dispute?
Is it something I would be happy that my boss would read or have it brought to the notice of a prospective employer?
Will it break the laws of the land or offend against public decency and good taste?
Is it something that would withstand investigation in a court of law or in a police station, or survive questioning by a slick lawyer acting on behalf of an aggrieved client?
If written on the spur-of-the-moment – inspired by some fleeting incident, utterance or occurrence – pause and ask if I should set it aside and let my emotions subside before posting?
Does it paint an accurate picture of me and is it something I would like to add to my public profile, now and forever?
Social media can be a wonderful medium when used well. However, it is a wise person who exercises good judgement about what he or she is saying on it, how and why it is being said, and to whom it is being said.
Social media posts are public property, not restricted to the person to whom they are addressed but available to be rebroadcasted by others.
Remembering that they can travel across the globe within seconds – and that misunderstandings can quite easily and very quickly occur – before posting a comment or image on social media, be advised to pause and consider the tone of the conversation you are joining, and whether it is appropriate to participate.