Social media is a powerful tool. Like any tool, it needs to be handled properly. We have had unions, associations, and individual reporters growing their online presence and using it to get details and ideas out to fellow stenographers. All that said, whether you’re posting a joke or creating a professional networking masterpiece, it’s time for some advice on social media.
First, realize that people will see what you post. You’ve got to be pretty comfortable with anyone and everyone seeing it, from your best friend to your worst enemy. What you do on social media is largely not private, no matter the group, setting, or structure. As a new person, this can be intimidating and dissuade you from participating in discussions. We’ll get into why that’s a bad idea, but first let’s run over some quick tips to make your use of social media enjoyable.
- If you are freelancing, posting directly about your agency can bite. In every group, there is a person, persons, or Parsons that will leak your post to your agency to curry favor or because your post offends their sensibilities. If you have a delicate piece of information that you want published, seek out a confidant or method to anonymously publish the information. If it’s newsworthy or going to help stenographers, then it’s worth protecting yourself first.
- If you are freelancing, posting about setting rates or conspiring to fix rates can get you in legal trouble. It’s called price fixing, and it’s a concern because we are not considered workers or employees, but independent contractors on the same level of business as agencies. We all know that the power and reach we have as individuals is different. That doesn’t change antitrust law.
- If you’re working as an employee or even freelancing, posting about a job can hurt you badly. We are supposed to be neutral, and in some states there are ethical rules we can break if we are not careful. There is a line between talking about a political idea or law and talking about an actual case that you reported on. My advice? Don’t cross the line. Imagine screen shots of what you say being printed in news.
- Be kind. The family members or friends of whoever you talk about may be watching. Easy example, I once posted about a stenographer losing their job. Someone who was close to that person reminded us then and there, we all struggle in life, don’t rush to judgment.
- Test your own beliefs. You will see crazy claims out there on the Internet. Rarely should you dismiss what people say out of hand or make final conclusions. Perfect example, I saw a transcript I thought was page padding. I came to learn that that was that state’s mandated page layout. What you think is not always what is true.
- Controls can help. Social media is a tool. Privacy settings can screen out some people from seeing stuff. You can choose who to follow, who to block, and all sorts of other content preferences. Spend just one afternoon reviewing your settings and make sure you’re getting the most relevant info in your feed.
So now we get to the logical end: This stuff is stressful. Why don’t I just delete my social media? You can. There is no law against that. But social media is this amazing tool for staying current and tuned into what the field is doing. We get the great marketplace of ideas, dispatches from agencies, and food for our own thoughts. Life is stressful, but very few of us run off into the wild to live off the grid. Why? Because the benefits of society are greater than the simplicity we’d otherwise have. Similarly, the benefits of social media are greater than the peace gained by never engaging. That said, engage smartly so that your tool never gets used as a weapon against you.