Why do people say things on social media that can hurt them?

Her fingers moved across the keyboard, and with each stroke, a slice of her life was revealed - for all to see.

She was driven by a need to share her experience from the night before. But she did it without thinking things through thoroughly.

Jane (not her real name), 27, who works in the financial industry, said: "I would often post on social media without thinking too much about the consequences.

"After all, everyone does it and I didn't think that people would pay so much attention to my posts."e

Unfortunately, some of her 1,000 Facebook "friends" noticed.

On one occasion several years ago, she decided to call in sick and skip work after she had a headache from drinking too much at a party the night before.

An acquaintance tagged her in a photo hanging out at the club on the same day she was absent from work. It did not help that Jane had also shared on Facebook that she had a hangover on the day that she was on medical leave.

Jane said: "Technically, I wasn't doing anything wrong because I really didn't feel well, but my boss spoke to me about it once I was back at work.

"Looking back, I could have lost my job if my boss was the 'picky' sort."

Jane, who used to treat her social media account as an outlet to "unload" her grievances, said that her social media posts have also got her in trouble with her colleagues.


She went on a tirade about some of them and although she did not mention any names, it eventually led to an ugly confrontation, she said.

"In the past, I would also post about it when I was unhappy with my family members, but they didn't know because they were not on my social media accounts," she said.

"But it's different at work and I admit that I was being unprofessional."

Jane eventually left her job.

She said: "I guess it was a toxic working environment and my posts were toxic as well.

"I don't post as much any more because I'm happier at my new workplace."

And that is the reason, Jane thinks, that Donald Trump makes some of his most disastrous and hate-filled comments online.

"He must be feeling upset about all the criticism that he has to face.

But, she added: "I would think he would be more careful because he has such a big audience, unlike me."

'Drunk tweeting' could be campaign tactic

Most people have a natural filter when it comes to sharing their thoughts online.

But mistakes can be made when a person is feeling particularly exhausted, emotional or tense, said PRecious Communications managing director Lars Voedisch.

"In the past there is drunk dialing, then there is drunk texting and now there is drunk tweeting," he explained.

Donald Trump might be an example, as observed in a New York Times article last month.

His most unpredictable and vehement tweets often appear in the early morning, when the Republican candidate is away from his minders and unwinding after a long day of campaigning.

But are Trump's online outbursts really made in his moments of weakness? Mr Voedisch thinks that those "emotionally overcharged" posts were probably deliberate.

He said: "One of the key tactics at the start of Trump's campaign was his radical and controversial opinions. He probably did it on purpose, knowing that he would get the headlines the next morning.

"His tweets could also be a typical deflection technique to bring the attention away from a previous controversy."

Social media and communications consultant Belinda Ang, thinks that while Trump's tweets will come across as "extreme" to most people, supporters may find such interactions personal and authentic, reaffirming their support for the candidate.

She said: "They would feel engaged, and that he is just being straightforward and not hiding anything. We cannot assume his true intent though - whether he is being emotional or has an informed agenda."

For the rest of us, the experts strongly recommend thinking twice before posting anything on social media.

Mr Voedisch said: "Most people have hundreds of friends on social media and that doesn't include friends of your friends too. Your posts might be posted privately but it can get extremely public."

Ms Ang has a tip for those who wish to rant anyway.

"Type it out but before you hit the 'post' button, press backspace and erase it alphabet by alphabet," she said.

"This way, you can practise self-censorship but at the same time manage your emotions and not allow your anger to build up."

Trump's recent rant-tweets

  • Oct 12 - Insulted 2008 Republican presidential candidate John McCain "The very foul mouthed Sen. John McCain begged for my support during his primary (I gave, he won), then dropped me over locker room remarks!"
  • Oct 11 - Slammed his own party and Republican leader Paul Ryan "Our very weak and ineffective leader, Paul Ryan, had a bad conference call where his members went wild at his disloyalty."
  • Oct 10 - Ridiculed Hillary Clinton "History lesson: There's a big difference between Hillary Clinton and Abraham Lincoln. For one, his nickname is Honest Abe. #RattledHillary"
  • Oct 5 - Dissed media outlet CNN "Wow, @CNN is so negative. Their panel is a joke, biased and very dumb. I'm turning to @FoxNews where we get a fair shake!"
  • Sept 30 - Attacked former Miss Universe winner Alicia Machado with untrue claims "Did Crooked Hillary help disgusting (check out sex tape and past) Alicia M become a US citizen so she could use her in the debate?"

This article was first published on October 14, 2016.
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