From Chapter 4: You’re Always On
Turn It Off, For Goodness’ Sake
No matter how we shuffle the communications cards, the indisputable fact is that we are all under surveillance. And I’m not just talking about “Big Brother” or sophisticated recording devices in the sky. I’m referring to the immediate and frequently irreversible repercussions of technology in the hands of the average Joe or Jane on the street.
My failure those many years ago to recognize the fine line between public and private speech underscores why all of us—public figures, politicians, preachers, and everyday folk—are required to be more circumspect and exercise far more discernment in the Information Age. If we dare to ignore the personal and professional repercussions involved when unintentional or careless remarks go public, we set ourselves up for far more than Facebook boomerangs. Just ask the diplomatic professionals who have been outed in the WikiLeaks revelations. These unintended disclosures underscore the invisible line that exists between public and private speech.
I’m sure former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick had no idea that the 14,000 text messages exchanged between him and his chief of staff, Christine Beatty, would end his career. Not only did the text messages out his affair with Beatty, they also served as the foundation for a lawsuit that resulted in an $8.4 million settlement by the City of Detroit. In December 2010, federal prosecutors issued even more charges against Kilpatrick. If convicted of the new charges, which include extortion, bribery, racketeering, and filing false tax returns, Kilpatrick could spend decades in jail.
In today’s rapid-fire communications arenas, we not only have got to find ways to turn the volume way down; sometimes it must simply be turned off if we are to avoid having our lives or careers destroyed by a private moment made public or a public moment gone viral through broadcast or posting over a social media site.
Be aware. Be very, very aware. Even if TMZ doesn’t follow you around! Be ever vigilant about what you do and what you say in the presence of friends, family, colleagues, or unknowns armed with seemingly harmless recording devices. What you may consider personal opinions or private actions can become public indictments that haunt you forever. Realize the importance of the Three D’s—Discernment, Discrimination, and “Do Unto Others . . .”
Social media as a permanent tracker of your deeds and misdeeds can make the stepping-stones to success that much more slippery. Be it public or private, at home or at play; for your own sake, remember: You’re always on.