I belong to a closed group on social media that has brought together a large number (several thousand) of mostly female members of my profession. The one thing we have in common besides our profession is that we are all parents. The aim of the group is simple. It's meant to be a place for us to discuss whatever it is that's on our minds that relates either to work or parenting or both. Ground rules have been established and agreed upon with the moderators of the group being proactive and sensible in their application of the rules to posts and comments.
So it was hardly a surprise that I took to the group like a duck to water. And it's been a lovely community to be part of.
But as with most things on social media, there was an incident recently. A member of the group had found the support so useful she casually mentioned it to a friend to see if she was interested in joining. The friend then replied that she'd actually heard of the group through a mutual acquaintance who was also a member of the group.
Unfortunately, the group had not been referenced in glowing terms. The mutual acquaintance had taken it upon themselves to screen shot the more 'inane' posts and then used those screen shots for a few cheap laughs.
I know we're all adult women and the members of this group presumably have a reasonable level of resilience, maturity and intelligence to rise above this incident but the jibe hit its mark. Some members became even more considered in what they posted, others noted how things like this reflect more on the observer than the observed and the majority carried on as normal.
We could analyse this deeply about how women should all be 'leaning in' to support each other. We could also glibly observe that women seem to be their own worst enemies who tear each other down. But my initial thoughts were a bit more basic.
For me, the incident brought home yet again, the message we tell our children and ourselves. Nothing on the internet is completely private no matter how well vetted and secure you might think an online community is. The internet is also forever thanks to a well (or badly) timed screen shot. If you put it out there, you need to be prepared to deal with the consequences good or bad.
But I do wonder about the screen shot person and whether any of us who use social media are in any place to judge. The attack was personal to us because it came from within the group. It was also the work of our dear old friend Anon.
The thing is, I've been having far too many chuckles over Melania Trump this past week and the made for memes controversy over the striking similarity of her recent speech to one Michelle Obama gave several years ago. I've also voiced an opinion on the final reveal of who The Real Housewives of Sydney are. With regards to the latter, I'm bitterly disappointed that the fixtures on Sydney's social pages that I'm most intrigued by kindly declined their offers to be a local housewife.
It was all light hearted, the people at the centre of the attention wanted the intention in the first place. Where's the harm?
Potentially everywhere for the people at the receiving end who meant for their actions and words to be received in a certain way. You can't control how people respond to anything you share in a public forum. Taylor Swift put it so well with the line 'haters going to hate'. But you also need to protect yourself in the event of the worst case scenario (and then some) by exercising a bit of discretion and judgement (preferably of yourself, not others).
Are you a member of an online forum? Do you find yourself fully reassured by the fact that your group is 'secret' or 'private'? Or do you conduct yourself as you would elsewhere on social media?