We live in a world in which communications technology has provided us with the means to make contact with those we know and those we do not.  Access to social media has become essential for many people and has increased the extent to which ordinary people have greater control over the world in which they live.  As we move into 2016 it is likely that there will be consolidation of social media along with increased numbers of people with whom we will interact.  Not all this communication will be interpreted in the way the sender intended to the extent that at times messages will be deliberately misinterpreted by a recipient for one of many reasons.

Good evidence of the risks of using our computers and hand-held devices is that a library of publications, reports and legal cases has been generated on the topic over the past few years.

This short communication, though, is intended just to warn of the dangers we face in using electronic communication and to give some guidelines for self-protection:


  • A hacker who targets an individual for theft (data and financial).
  • Hate, bullying and rumour-mongering.
  • Use data to harm reputations.
  • Mistakenly communicating with the wrong person.
  • An employer may object to the content of a message and issue sanctions.
  • There may be specific rules governing the use of electronic communication and social media at work.
  • For organizations electronic communication offers essential benefits.  However it offers a conduit to employees to harm the employer, usually through error or ignorance but sometimes through malice. The major risks are reputational and the damage often cannot easily be erased.


  • Become like a good carpenter who ‘measures twice and cuts once’. Read your message carefully, especially for typos and auto-suggest errors.
  • Send as few messages as possible not as many as you can.
  • Check for unintended meanings.
  • Keep messages positive.
  • Avoid sarcasm and aggression.
  • Do not malign your correspondent or other people or groups.
  • Remember that there are people who trawl to identify messages which could be misinterpreted in such a way as to satisfy their own agenda.
  • If an argument is developing de-escalate it if you can. Otherwise do not respond.
  • Know your company rules concerning use of your own or the employer’s devices and programs.
  • Work within the rules and be certain about what remains personal and confidential and what eavesdropping is permitted in terms of the rules.
  • Employers should carefully and comprehensively communicate the rules to staff in a collaborative manner and ensure that the rules are capable of being enforced.
  • Remember that photographs as well as messages disappear into the aether but that there is always someone willing to retrieve them.  If they do, it is unlikely to be for your well-being or benefit.
  • Be as neutral as possible and as truthful as you can.

Finally, I leave you with something to ponder. Why are no actual programs, sites, or devices mentioned in this piece? Happy communicating in 2016 and remember, silence IS golden.

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