Digital communications is no longer a free-for-all, it can take you right to courts of law if you use it and people don't like what it tells them about you. A US court just slashed alimony payments (Cardone v. Cardone, 2011 WL 1566992, Conn.Super. April 4, 2011) to an ex-wife because of her blog posts, which detailed how she was sailing around the Caribbean for months with her new boyfriend while she rented out her apartment. The poor sap ex-husband had been paying for 10 years and the court reduced it by 70% because she was clearly living with someone else and being subsidized by her ex-husband.
Get back to Connecticut for a moment. The guy was being forced to pay until she died or got remarried. 10 years. It may be okay to get married in Connecticut but you had better not get divorced there.
The overal point is that users of social media need to consider that once they post information, it is out there for just about anyone to see and use.
Here are five rules (okay, no one likes rules on the Internet, so let's say guidelines) of good social media etiquette
1. Before you post or send anything that may be inflammatory or controversial, wait for 24 hours, after which you'll be able to consider what you're writing more objectively. Try and think how your communication will be viewed if read out of context, perhaps by your child or, in the case above, a Judge.
2. Don't respond to or initiate inflammatory language, and resist replying immediately to anything you do receive of this nature. If you feel you have to respond, adopt the 24 hour delay rule. Write it if you must but give yourself a day to reflect on your response.
3. If you're dealing with a legal issue and blogging about it, ask your attorney. Yes, it will be expensive and your attorney loves minutiae they can charge you for, but cheaper than losing a lawsuit.
4. Don't vent your frustrations on Facebook or Twitter, where things can 'snowball' and get out of hand. It could end up being viewed unfavorably by a judge in a court of law and your children or family might be hurt by it.
5. Treat anything but the most trusted correspondence as business-like rather than emotional - there are better ways and places to express emotion than a blog or Facebook posting.
Sharon Bennett of Bross Bennett, a divorce attorney firm, says, "It's important that everyone thinks about the possible consequences before they type. They don't think about the impact of what they have done, and we have seen first hand just how damaging the written word can be in a court of law, especially in the case of divorcing couples who send aggressive tweets, texts or emails in the heat of the moment. People need to remember that not only can these pour fuel on an already flaming relationship, they can later be used against them as written evidence. Both outcomes are hugely damaging."