Bet you have a lot to say right now! Who doesn’t? During this Coronavirus crisis, cyber-image is the last thing you’re worried about, but there’s plenty of reason to put more thought into it.

Certainly, there are so many other pressing issues associated with Coronavirus, or Covid-19. Topping the list, of course, protecting yourself and others, your finances and work, travel restrictions, to name a few. Other disturbing realities also vie for your attention like how others are handling this “sci-fi-like” reality individually, hoarding things like food, water, sanitizers, toilet paper? For Pete’s sake, what do you think about that? What about those who choose to disregard precautions with the “it’s not going to affect me” attitude? Are they not thinking about how their disregard could potentially translate into spreading the virus to someone it could, certainly, kill?

Then, there’s the thoughts about the decisions various companies are making in dealing with the situation. What about your own employer? Don’t we all have something to say about what  government leaders are, or are not doing, to get us through this? You can’t forget “the media,” and opinions on how they’re handling it all? Some are glued to the TV soaking in every bit of information they can get, grateful to feel “in the know.” Others think it’s being way overblown, and are sure this is all the media’s fault.

It’s going to get emotional.

We’re talking about pretty much the entire gamut of emotions, especially confusion, frustration, anger and fear. Problem is, with many finding themselves working remotely, AKA, stuck at home, there’s no “water cooler” to cool off at, or co-worker at the next cubicle to share your thoughts with in person, no one to vent to as you’re passing through the lunch room. All you have, basically, are those you live with…and, well, we all know that doesn’t always do the job (That’s a whole OTHER story).While those real-world camaraderie opportunities are restricted, thank goodness you can always sound off in the digital world, right? Experts will say it’s better to let it all out, right? What better place to sound off but on social media with your own posts, or comments to other’s posts, or by text, or by email? So many ways to let the world know your take on all angles of the Coronavirus. Shewwww!

 

 

But, wait!

Please, please…wait. You’ll be so glad you did.

We all know this virus crisis will go away. However, what you say in digital space about it, or because of it, will never go away. No doubt, we’re going to feel the repercussions of the crisis on several levels, but with one keystroke, or with one mouse click, you can make the Coronavirus-related damage you suffer on a personal or professional level far worse, in ways you aren’t even considering. We are in the middle of a moment that will go down in history books, and how we respond, each of us, is being well-documented too. What we share on social media, in emails, in text messages, you get it, is there forever and for all to see, and what we share says more about us, often, then we realize.

For example…

Consider this. A former fellow journalist had a very bad day at work a few years ago. Many of us are having bad days right now, right? He wanted to make his anger known to the world immediately. Some of us want to make sure the world knows how we’re feeling right now, right?  He took to Facebook with a very simple post: “I will never forgive those responsible. #REVENGE.” Fired. His dream job, gone. Maybe, for good. Those words, now attached to him forever and for all to see, no matter how many times he might’ve tried to delete his impetuous and unfortunate decision to let it all out. No matter how much he really didn’t mean it.

As I scroll through some social media feeds, I’m shaking my head, asking myself do these people realize the permanent “digital” picture they’re painting of themselves? What happens when a potential employer sees a post or comment as a red flag to stay away from you? Remember, there is most likely going to be a lot of people in the market for a job when this is over with. What happens if you find  yourself in a divorce, a custody battle, or in court for some reason, and those comments you blurted out on Twitter are put into evidence? What happens when what you say, or pictures you post are taken out of context, go viral and put your character in jeopardy, and who knows what else. Bad enough now, but the further we get from this Coronavirus situation, the worse those angry, mean-spirited, fear-filled, defeatist words could sound.

 Tips to “Coronavirus proof” your cyber-image:

  1. Pause before you post. Always a rule of thumb. Maybe draft what you want to say or how you want to respond. Set it aside for an hour or so…go back and re-read. If it still feels right, reasonable, logical, can’t be taken out of context, sure, hit send. Most likely though, if you are posting, commenting, responding based on an emotional reaction, you’ll find reason to edit what you originally were going to say, or delete altogether.
  2.  Ask yourself one big question. What kind of vulnerability am I revealing that could call my “character” into question. Are you expressing too much anger or fear, for example, that might be interpreted as someone who is anything but a leader, someone who lashes out, someone who is easily stirred up?
  3. Take inventory of the words you choose. If they’re too strong, if you’re using too many superlatives or “extreme” talk, there’s a good chance your emotions are running too high to go public with, and can be misinterpreted or taken out of context by others down the road.
  4. Think about your intention. Is what you’re saying intended to hurt, insult or shake up someone else? Even if they deserve it, we all know people who deserve it, you don’t want to be the person who stoops to their level. It could be easy to go even lower than them if you’re riled up enough.
  5. Nix the negativity. Could what you’re saying or posting incite fear or more anger, or anything else negative? There’s so much of that, you don’t want to be one of “those” people.

But, it’s so tempting! 

Look, the reality is, revealing and sharing emotion about life’s ups and downs is human. We’re kind of programmed to do that. Arguably, that’s why loneliness can be so painful and harmful, there’s no one to share with. Sharing our inner-most thoughts offers an opportunity to validate them, examine them, ponder them, maybe to sort out or solve some issues…to feel better.

 

“When you express how you really feel (in an appropriate manner), problems get solved, relationship issues get resolved, and life is easier. In addition, you will like your life better because you’re not holding on to unhealed or confusing feelings.”

Dr. Barton Goldsmith, Ph.D./Emotional Fitness

SOURCE: Psychology Today

Good stuff. In fact, isn’t it exactly what keeps many of those who work in mental health employed, just being a warm body there to listen. Opening up about something that makes you uncomfortable, like Coronavirus is doing to us, naturally, comes with a degree of vulnerability. When we get to open up those we know and trust in person, or even over the phone, vulnerability becomes less of a factor. It’s real communication, it’s clear and it’s a moment meant for that moment, and most likely is going to stay there.

It’s different with social media. 

Even though you might be commenting to a post or picture of someone you know and trust, or you’re simply posting your own inner-most thoughts to that, so-called, “private” group of Facebook friends, we’re talking a whole new level of vulnerability. Now, comes the tremendous risk of what you have to say getting shared with those you didn’t want to share with, getting attacked, misinterpreted, taken out of context, or thrown in your face. Every word, documented online forever and for all to see (no matter how many times you try to delete).

Vulnerability. It’s a word that, in this time of global crisis, is perhaps, relatable to more people than it has been in decades. The last thing any of us wants to do is make ourselves more vulnerable to contracting the Coronavirus, more vulnerable to losing loved ones to it, to losing our jobs, our finances, our normalcy. One of the few things we can control in this chaos, though, is what we put out there in the “land of digital” in response to it. Controlling that means controlling some of the impact this craziness will have on you in the long run, when the pandemic becomes history.

On the flipside…

What a fantastic chance we all have right now to put our goodness out there! Just as it’s so dangerous to go negative on social media, or anywhere digitally, it’s also incredibly rewarding to turn it around. How about being the person who tries to find the positive in this? Or at least, how about being the person who reaches out through cyber-space, whether it’s on social media, or a simple text with a smiling emoji, or, in my case plenty of pictures of my cats (the best cats ever, by the way) to make others crack even the slightest smile. That’s a team player, that’s a leader, that’s a social media “rock star,” forever and for all to see. Make it count!

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