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Posted: June 15, 2011

Ten ways to avoid a Weiner roasting

Tread carefully online

John Heckers

 Anthony Weiner, widely seen as a rising progressive star, is now just a punch line. If you want to avoid a similar fate, especially in your work life, here are some vital things to realize about your online presence and networking in general.

1). Your online activities are not private. They are not personal. They are not protected. Anything you put online can be broadcast from the housetops. It doesn't matter what your privacy settings are. Understand clearly that everything on-line is public and act accordingly.

2). Understand that Denver is a very small town. If you sneeze in Boulder, they'll say "Bless you!" in Englewood. I'm continually amazed and gratified at how many people I know, and how many people we have in common. But this is a two-edged sword. When you're a well-networked person, you also live, to a degree, in a fishbowl. People are talking about you. Do what you can to make what they say nice.

3). Be honest. If you lie on your profile somewhere, it will be found out. You will wind up being exposed one way or another.

4). Don't enter into intimate relationships with a fantasy. Messaging and long, revelatory emails, and even long telephone calls can be very deceptive. A sense of trust and intimacy can build. This is almost always a fantasy. If you're single and careful, this is pretty harmless except to your heart. If you're married or do stupid things on-line, this can cost your marriage and your job, and possibly your career. Enter into intimate relationships with real people, not people you only know on-line.

3). Nothing is confidential. If you don't want your 87 year old mom (or 99 year old grandma) to hear it, don't do it. Certainly emailing or Tweeting intimate body parts is out. But think before you do anything that you don't want "out there."

4). Be careful what you promise. Of course, you can't be responsible for what people hear. But promise carefully. If you promise it....do it. If you don't keep your promises, it will get out to your network.

5). Remember that nothing you say in networking meetings is confidential, nor is anything you do. If you are rude, damaging, dangerous, or a networking nerd, others have a perfect right to tell other people about you.

6). Don't trash someone well known and well respected. If you say nasty things about someone who is well-networked, you had better have a great deal of evidence to back up your opinions or you will wind up looking like the fool.

7). If caught, tell the truth or say nothing. Don't lie. If you are caught in a lie, don't lie to cover up the lie. This only makes it worse. If you have done something seriously wrong, say nothing unless you have your attorney present. Never talk to the media or to the police. Neither have your best interests at heart.

8). Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean that they aren't still out to get you. There is absolutely no privacy left in America anymore. You should not assume that anything you do or say, even so-called "private" conversations with trusted friends, is truly private. Anyone would be a fool to put private information in an email these days.

9). Remember that emails, IMs and texts can be saved...and forwarded. You are constantly creating a "paper trail" for yourself whenever you email, IM or text someone. While oral conversations can certainly be recorded, it is nowhere near as easy to do so as to save a written message.

10). Remember that what seems innocent today can be misconstrued tomorrow. Be incredibly careful in what you put in IMs, emails and texts. You may simply be joking or flirting. But today's joking or flirting can take on a sinister cast when it is looked at through the lens of something coming to light that is not innocent.

The ubiquity of social networking is connecting people in previously unimagined ways. It can also be a trap for those who are not careful. Do not ruin your job chances, your career or your marriage through incredibly stupid on-line behavior. You'd really be a Weiner if you did.

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John Heckers, MA, CPC, BCPC was an Executive, Relationships, Life and Spiritual Coach in Denver with 30 years of experience  helping people with their lives, relationships and careers.

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Readers Respond

John, Good article, well written and punchy. Jim Glenn By Jim Glenn on 2011 06 21
John, excellent article (and thanks for the two bonus points)! One of the great benefits of the internet and social networking is greater transparency. The high-performers I have coached for decades have always been as transparent as possible, it's easier today to be transparent than it has ever been. I love that! By TC North on 2011 06 16
Thanks Carla and William. It was a member of my staff who pointed out my numbering mistake, BTW, not a reader. My readers are usually pretty forgiving of that kind of stuff, but my staff catches these things before we email out the article link on our newsletter. I have to say, though, that I think almost all social networking and actual networking IS carried out with honesty, integrity and good intentions. I also think that we hear about the people who do nasty things and never hear about the vast majority (of non-politicians) who do very wonderful things. I have little use for politicians, esp. at the Federal level, and I would never encourage children to see them as either role models or leaders. I kind of think of politicians like I think of Miller Moths. They're something that is incredibly annoying, very hard to get rid of, and an unavoidable fact of life....but I could be really being unfair...to Miller Moths. By John Heckers, MA, CPC, BCPC on 2011 06 16
I agree with Carla; however, this article may be a prime example of why our society is unable to reward and honor the good in any meaningful volume and breadth. This author states a concern about personal privacy and rather than sparking comments on the security, personal risks and consequences of our behaviors, most hone in on the sensational fool who got stung by the obvious and inevitable results by believing he was above the distribution systems dangers. It was more important to point out that the author made a simple numbering mistake than it was to recognize our vulnerabilities………… There is nothing wrong with commenting on the political fool; yet, the same people have nothing to comment on the main point of the article? That may speak volumes toward the problem. For instance, we try to get the word out about something we are doing for Soldiers and Military Families, and the media catches fire over the idea and then relegates it to inefficient PSA’s because the public wants, demands and passes around the “Weiners” of the world………… Networking used to be productive and able to accentuate the positive and the good. Now it is relegated to jokes, social trivia and predators for the majority of its interaction and trafficking. We are giving up our ability to network, and seriously so, for the good. We still have the right and tools, we just do not have the will for sustaining and recognizing the life-affirming value a sustained network can have to really help people……………. This article and the few responses illustrate the points. The author tried to use the classic convention of an absurd, attention-catching headline sensation to point out a very great vulnerability in our progressive communication habits -laudable-but no interest in individual safety –just sensation. By William on 2011 06 16
Hmmm....it just got pointed out to me that I have 12 points, not 10. That's what I get for upgrading my software to something I'm not familiar with! By John Heckers, MA, CPC, BCPC on 2011 06 15
RIGHT ON CARLA!!!! Doesn't anyone have any shame anymore???? By Amy on 2011 06 15
Where were you when Weiner needed you?!!! I honestly think these people are so out of touch with the real world that they seriously believe they can get away with just about anything. They are incredibly wealthy and/or powerful and their minions kow-tow to them constantly. It goes to their heads, and comes out as stupidity. Plus, we have developed the unfortunate practice of rewarding the worst behavior: women who tout having sex with married men, attorneys general who prosecute people for the same crimes they are committing, unwed teenage mothers, and others, are rewarded with fame, television interviews and shows and endorsements. And, in most cases, a heap of forgiveness. I'm all for forgiving people for their misdeeds, but when did we get so far off track? By Carla on 2011 06 15
John - THANK YOU for saying what needed to be said! It seems crazy to me that someone(Weiner) would be so irresponsible and put his whole life on the line for a few cheap thrills..... By Amy on 2011 06 15
Thank you for trying to get the word out there that dipping into the social media and networking pool is easy to do and hard to protect. Incredibly, we in our society do not teach this obvious point. Unfortunately, just like sex education, our society and media have apparently not yet placed knowledge, protection and the shared understanding of risk ahead of personal gain and acceptable levels of ignorance. These risks are real. In fact, they are hyper-real. They can be life damaging and direction changing. So, one would think that mitigating those risks through a concerted effort on the part of all would be a high priority. Sadly it is not. Curiously, these risks are consistently ignored, in proportion to how threatening they are –and how inconvenient. The problem is not that bad people get rolled up in the mess, but that good people are vulnerable too because they are naïve. Every day is the key help good people avoid these vulnerabilities. The education and guidance must be at least as ubiquitous as the risks. Therefore, printing this once would be absurd, less than a drop in any ocean. Your points are simple and universal but they need to be constantly cast out there for the revolving readers to reel in. Thank you for stating it. Now find a way to do something really different about it. Get his publisher to make it an every day priority to remind and educate its readers…constantly about the issue -not just when some socially inept politician stumbles in their habits. In those cases, good people just see the fool as the “other” and not as an indicator of their own risks. Publish this subject every day, everywhere. Someone will avoid the predator, and that is a higher calling in media. By William on 2011 06 15
Excellent list! I'd call them the Rules of Online Engagement. Well written John, keep up the good work. By Mike on 2011 06 15
I don't know what it is, but these politicians certainly seem to have a hard time with understanding even elementary common sense, don't they? Perhaps that is why the country is in the mess that it is in? These folks on both sides of the aisle seem to feel that they are omnipotent and untouchable...and that they can do anything and destroy lives with impunity. Torches and pitchforks anyone?? By John Heckers, MA, CPC, BCPC on 2011 06 15
I'm continually amazed that people would think anything else. Good article, but, as in Weiner's case, there will always be people who don't have a clue. narcissism?? I don't know By John on 2011 06 15

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