“The recent experience of a presidential aide who got into trouble with her tweets in Twitter should be a lesson not only for that particular official but also for all government officials who have embraced technology as a part of their daily lives.” Former Rep. Ruffy Biazonhttp://www.ruffybiazon.ph
Following is a 5-Point guide based on my own personal experience in merging the internet and public office.
1. Be prepared to take on the world if you go on social media.
As a public official, going on the internet and social media can be an exciting thing. Suddenly, you have a free platform to present your ideas or show your activities to the public without the need to compete and spend for space in traditional media (print and broadcast) . You have full control over what you present and how to present it. The world is your audience.
But as with all things powerful, it may backfire on you. Once you go online, you must also be prepared to receive not just cheers but also jeers. It is a free world, and anyone can support or object to what you say. It would be best that you expect someone to contradict you. But accept them with grace, not a grimace.
2. The public will not distinguish between your personal post and your official post.
People have a natural interest in public figures, whether they be from the entertainment industry or public service. People listen to what they have to say. Of course, whether people believe them or not is another matter, but the fact remains that what public figures say or do will be noted by the people.
And for public officials, what they say on social media will be taken in by the public as a statement from an official of government. The people will not distinguish between Mr. Juan De La Cruz the congressman from Mr. Juan De La Cruz the Twitter user. Since public office is a public trust, everything you say or do will be held against you in the court of public opinion.
3. Posting in social media is like squeezing toothpaste out of the tube….you can never put it back in.
Think twice before you click that “Share”, “Send”, “Publish” or “Post” button. Thrice, if you can. Or if possible, do a draft and sleep over it before you throw it into cyberspace. Once you release your thoughts or ideas out into the web, it will be there for everyone to see and if it turns out that you blurted something out in a temporary fit of insanity or stupidity, you will not be able to stop it from spreading.
Even if you retract what you have posted in a moment of weak judgment, that retraction will never be able to overcome your initial post’s trauma to your reputation or image.
4. When you post, regard it as immortalizing your words in a permanent record of your wisdom or stupidity.
Many times in the past, public officials were bitten in their behinds by the very words they said. It can’t be more true than in social media, where every post is recorded in the world wide web, with anyone free and able to do copies or repost infinitely the bits of indiscretion by a public personality.
The worst thing for public officials is that their posts will become an easy reference for their detractors, especially if they are inconsistent with the things they say online.
5. If you can, maintain separate accounts for your official and personal use.
It may require extra effort, but if you want to be safe, maintain separate online or social media accounts for your personal and official persona. Of course, it is logical that in creating the two accounts, there shouldn’t be any means to connect the two and your personal account should only be known or accessible to those you know and trust.
The internet is wonderful tool for governance. It provides accessibility, information and a feedback mechanism. But it is a double-edged sword. It also exposes incompetence, highlights mistakes, and gives a permanent record of the same. But if government officials will know how to use it properly, they can be more effective and earn cheers instead of jeers.