My friend Gary Charles with G Social Media likes to say “Get Social.” After all, in the social media era, getting social is good for business. Sometimes, it’s flat out fun to waste time in the name of success, especially when it pays. Increasingly, I’m using social media in private group settings. Why does this matter? Because to me, private means private. When I wish to share a thought not meant for general public consumption, I may choose to do so in a private FaceBook group.
Now, I know “the rules.” That if more than two persons are present, any communication is considered “publishing” under first amendment law. But twenty years ago, I worked in an administrative capacity in a homeless shelter. Once a week, we all had “group.” All the residents and all the staff sat in a big circle and shared what was going on in our lives. “We commit to group and confidentiality.” Nobody said a word outside that circle. Same with my priestess work a decade ago. I realized that if I repeated something said in circle, I was giving away my power in a big way. I learned to keep my own counsel. Today, when I agree to be part of a private group, I am actually agreeing to honor the sanctitity of the group and its confidentiality. Nonetheless, if that agreement isn’t openly stated and agreed upon by the group, there’s no real basis for an expectation of privacy.
Each person has a right to his or her own name, image, and creative work thanks to the First Amendment and international copyright law. As the boundaries blur between yours, mine and ours, and content becomes negotiated and shared in the social media world, we sacrifice privacy. That’s why a lot of my feed is public. I’m not fooling myself.
When the group is marked private, the rules change. I make comments there you won’t see anywhere else. I don’t share others’ posts unless I see those posts on their public feed. These areas of clear discernment are especially true for me in small closed groups of fewer than 10 persons where there is a high degree of transparency and honesty. If the group has 100 members, I treat it like a discussion board and assume everything is shared publicly.
I propose an addition to the social media book of manners. If one person wants to share something another person said in a private setting, then the party of the first part should ask permission of the party of the second part before the cut and paste and publish approach. If a person makes a personal choice to speak their truth in the privacy of a group rather than on their very public feed, respect that choice. If you feel you must share, ask their permission first. Hint? Look for a share button. If there isn’t one, it’s likely the speaker intended the information to go no further than the place you’ve encountered it.
To share someone else’s statement without their consent takes away their personal choice. To publish it for personal gain, or in a way that damages a reputation or causes embarassment, carries actual liability. And if you’re in a private group, check to see if there are written or unwritten rules about what can be shared outside the group.