Tired of elected officials tweeting? I know I am. I liked the mystery of not knowing that an elected official was a jerk. Tweets have ended up being the ultimate manifestation of oversharing.

It’s the same with working professionals oversharing personal opinions online, particularly critical or combative tweets. There used to be a clear line between work and home, being on the job and time off. People didn’t have access to your private life or personal details because there was no way to self publish. And it was a good thing. I miss the days when I didn’t know a lot about coworkers and their personal lives.

Your work persona is a carefully curated version of yourself. It’s all about boundaries and filters. Remember the Google + Circles? It was a way to use circles to control who you share posts with. You could create a circle for close family and another for coworkers. Another for professional network. The goal was to carefully filter information for each group, because your relationship with each is fundamentally different. On top of that, at work you are responsible for managing risks to your professional reputation.

Without the concept of filters, we tend to overshare to the wrong audiences using self-publishing tools like Twitter.  Many people seem to be unaware that social media is essentially publishing your content without an editor, fact checker or quality control of any kind.

Remember, all of your online activity results in self-publishing. That includes profiles, tweets, websites and blog posts. The downside risk that we’ve incurred is that we have provided data, sometimes inaccurate or completely lacking context, to strangers. That includes potential employers, current and future coworkers and if you are dating, prospective partners. And trolls. If the internet is the new public square, then we need to remember what used to happen to people who didn’t conform. Think Salem Witch Trials. Think McCarthy era. Witch hunts and public shaming. Ostracism. Slander. Defamation. Cruelty. These factors are increasingly affecting working professionals in all aspect of their job, workplace and sense of security in their careers.

Working women are increasingly at risk when it comes to reputation management. There is a double standard when it comes to acceptable content between genders. Forget content. Just being a woman can lessen the chances that you will be considered. A recent LinkedIn study showed that when recruiters are searching for candidates and they see a list of men and women, they tend to open men’s LinkedIn profiles more frequently. 

Some of the key workplace trends we see are:

Workplace bullying
Workplace gossip
Digital trauma
Public shaming
Electronic aggression

If these trends affect your job, they affect your career. If they affect your career, they definitely affect your job search.

Why risk oversharing when inaccurate search results can destroy your ability to get a job? Ask the Aunt from hell who was vilified in the media for suing her nephew for breaking her wrist for hugging her too hard. That wasn’t the whole story – the nephew’s dad homeowner’s insurance policy required her to do this. That didn’t matter. She had to change her online identity in order to protect her employment. 

While online job sites and job search has had a lot of positive impact for job seekers, the negative aspects of the internet have proved to be profoundly challenging to manage for many working professionals. In the past, if you didn’t really get along with your manager, few people knew. Prior to the internet, it would be unlikely they would call your manager directly. Because they wouldn’t have known who your manager was because there was no LinkedIn.  Even better, people wouldn’t be able to call a second level contact on LinkedIn to call your manager, tell them you were interviewing, and ask if “you were a good person.”

And your manager wouldn’t have spoken to a stranger to potentially slander you. Because HR had a lot more power and managers were afraid. So they’d say no comment. Now we live in a world of back door reference checks. 

And that doesn’t even address coworkers or former coworkers who love the power of commenting about people they never managed. For some reason, hiring managers tend to believe unverified sources. Sounds familiar doesn’t it? These unverified references are the “fake news” of job search.

If you need to work for a living, conflict is something you cannot afford. If you must have a job where an employer pays you money, instead of self employment, you have to accept that the old school saying, If you can’t say anything positive, don’t say anything at all. We’ve all gotten lured into a belief that we can express ourselves without repercussions.

Now if you are in politics, obviously part of your job is being political. The issue I see is when someone is working for a company and very combative politically in their social media posts and comments. There are going to be potential issues for you in self publishing so openly to the world.

Stay away from:

Workplace gossip
Negative posts and comments on any site
Providing any unauthorized references
Online feuds
Negative Yelp reviews
Bad breakups and creating bitter ex partners, spouses etc….

Women in particular have to be very careful. There has been a significant increase in electronic harassment and violence toward women, and workplace abuse of women. On top of that, 43 states now have laws to address nonconsensual pornography (NCP), defined as the distribution of sexually graphic images of individuals without their consent.

And if you think you have legal recourse, think again. It’s really difficult to prove defamation. Think of your pain and suffering first. Whenever you go to post something, or have a work battle with someone, ask yourself, Is this conflict worth it?  It’s really insane. Most of the time you are fighting over something completely irrelevant. That doesn’t matter.

Remember, if they go low, we go high. It’s incredibly important to remember this mantra. Going low can initiate a battle you can’t ever win. Oversharing can take many forms and it is your responsibility as a good digital citizen to ensure that you build a strong online brand that helps your career.