The 5 Internet Boundaries I Will Not Cross

Do you think I'm an oversharer? Oh, yeah? Well, check out all these sexy boundaries!

Sep 16, 2013 at 9:00am | Leave a comment

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I did not do the "Dr. Phil" show. But a picture of me on his cart seemed appropriate for a post about boundaries, no?

Know what's pretty fun? Boundaries.

I realize that at first blush you may think that I have no right to write about the subject since I could qualify as the caricature of the world's worst kind of oversharer imaginable. I mean, I freaking write about my life daily on the Internet, including some very humiliating stories that no one in a million years would dream of sharing, let alone putting in a permanent way online.

But I do have boundaries, and here are five of mine I will not cross. (If you want to see a wider discussion of this, check out the HuffPost Live segment I'll be on at 1:30 p.m. EST today talking about this very subject.)

#1: I will not post pictures of friends without their permission.

Here's the thing. We all hate certain pictures of ourselves. The least you can do is check with your friends before you post a picture of them. Sometimes it takes 20 tries to get a pic where your friend is happy with it, but that's what friends do. They play Annie Leibovitz, and they work with the angles. And the filters.

#2: I won't speak poorly about my co-workers or my workplace on the Internet.

This one seems like a no-brainer but so many people mistakenly think they're not being watched. That sounded very Orwellian NSA surveillance creepy, but I've been operating on that advice since 1995 when I started using the primitive pre-Internet messaging system when I interned as a student at the Sun-Sentinel down in Ft. Lauderdale. The tech reporter there told me (as I messaged her the details of a stupid romance I was having with an older man): "Mandy, always know that anything you write over technology can be tracked. Never assume otherwise." And I see a lot of people who do passive aggressive subtweets that are obviously about their boss or their place of employment. Don't do it. Bitch to your friends offline. Also, don't tweet asking for weed. That usually ends badly.

#3: When I am truly feeling down, I almost never write about it online, but I reach out to people in real life instead.

I see a lot of people write status updates that are along the lines of "Life sucks, and I hate everyone, and I'm so sad." Trust me, I feel you on this one. We all feel that way at some point, but social media and the Internet are not the place to go if you are truly depressed. Talking to an actual human being will almost always make you feel less alone and more connected. Also, unless you are doing it anonymously, I can guarantee you that people are going to make some kind of crappy quick judgment about your instability as a human being. You are absolutely NOT unstable, you're just being human. But humans are all about posturing and propriety and at a certain point, it's smart to keep that in mind when you are navigating the modern world.

If you are looking for employment and your Twitter or Facebook can be discovered via a quick search, and it reveals a lot of woe-is-me status updates, I can guarantee that your potential employer is going to find it a turn-off. Hey, I write about my antidepressants and feeling lonely all the time -- but it's in the context of a narrative, and I also recognize the consequences of these actions. Am I going to get a corporate PR job any time soon? I don't think so.

#4: The only time I will write about health will be if it actually involves a good story rather than mundane updates or hypochondriac musings.

Do you have that one friend who writes a status update every time she's concerned about something to get a little sympathy love? "Just made an appointment with my doctor because I'm not feeling well #sucks." Dude, you're fine. Go get your Z-Pak and don't lead with everything that is wrong or could possibly wrong with you and your longevity. It's like going to a party and leading with how you got the flu and you're like a germ magnet and -- why is the person across from you speaking to you in close proximity again? Just think about how someone else would view what you are writing, and keep it in mind. I'm a total sympathy/empathy/compassion/validation addict, too, but there's no reason to crowdsource your next antibiotic.

#5: I'm sober now, but before I was, I would never post pictures of myself intoxicated online.

Again, this may seem like a no-brainer, but I see a lot of 20-somethings not where they want to be in their career and their Facebook feed reads like their life is one long party. More power to you, man, but just keep in mind that unless you have everything locked down, you are giving off a message that you are probably more of a party monster than a work monster. I'm all for transparency, but I also want you to get exactly the job you want. Keeping your "Hangover"-level photos between you and your friends isn't the worst idea in the world.

What are your boundaries online? Are you always anonymous if you comment anywhere online? Have you ever had something online come back and bite you in the ass? Do share. Overshare even. I won't tell.

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