OK, maybe I should say “Social Media lasts Forever.” By this, I mean that our posts on various social media sites has the potential to be on the Internet (and other places) for a long, long time.

In 2011, I posted a photo of my Dad’s military information that’s on the National World War II Memorial. When I originally posted it, several people commented and “Liked” the photo. Normally, that’s the end of it. You post something and its “lifespan” is fairly short.

However, that photo seems to have a new life. One of my Facebook Friends found it and commented – almost two years after I originally posted it. Then, other Friends commented, too!

I’m very proud of my Dad and his military service so this is OK. However, what if that photo had been of something that I might not be so proud of…especially years after the fact?

How many times have you seen something one of your connections posted and thought “Wow. What are they thinking?”

Posts on social media can damage or ruin friendships, relationships, and often cost people their jobs…or potential jobs.  And, there can even be more serious consequences. I had the honor of talking with Vic Reynolds, the District Attorney for Cobb County, Georgia, on my radio program. We talked about the fact that law enforcement and attorneys love social media! The things people post online would have given Paul Harvey more “stupid criminal” stories than he could have ever run.

I always tell people that if they wouldn’t want the post on the office bulletin board, in their church bulletin or on Grandma’s fridge, then they shouldn’t post it online. Even if you have a change of heart – or come to your senses! – later and delete the post, keep in mind that those posts still exist on the servers of the various social media sites. And, someone seeing the post could have also printed it or downloaded it.

I once read that a deleted post is still on Facebook’s servers after EIGHTEEN months. Twitter is even worse. The U.S. Library of Congress archives public tweets (which most are) and as of early 2013, had over 170 billion tweets in their archive. The Twitter archives aren’t available for the public to search through, but that that may change once the LOC gets a better handle on the technology and the search process. I’m assuming that once a tweet has been archived, even if the original poster deleted it, it still exists in the archives.

So, what do we do about this? Spend a little time going back through your old posts and delete the ones you now think are inappropriate. They may still exist “somewhere,” but at least get them out of the public eye. On Facebook, change your Privacy Settings so that your Friends can’t Tag you in their photos and posts. We all have friends who are practical jokers!

Finally, think once, twice, even three times before posting…and commenting on someone else’s post. Don’t retweet that funny – but tasteless – joke or cartoon. Or, if you do, just keep in mind that social media is forever!

I’d love to get your thoughts on this. Post them below!

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