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Cleaning Up Your Social Media as a Nonprofit Board Member

As a nonprofit board member, be ready to become a public figure.

Serving on a nonprofit board can quickly jettison you into the public eye. If you want to be influential and well-known around your community, that’s greatbut you need to be prepared for it. Your social media accounts are going to be visible to the world, and anything you say publicly is going to be associated with the nonprofit you’re working for. It may be time to clean up your social media accounts.

Everything on the Internet Is Public

According to Pew Research, 91% of Americans agree that people have lost control over how their personal information is collected on the internet. Once the internet has noticed something, it’s impossible to remove it. In fact, trying to remove it only makes it more visible: it’s known as the Streisand Effect. What you can do, however, is proactively lower your risk. Remove things from your social media profiles that could potentially hurt you before, not after, they’ve been noticed.

Effectively, that means:

  1. Updating your privacy settings so only family and friends can see your social media profiles.
  2. Reviewing your accounts for any posts, tweets, or images that you feel don’t accurately reflect you as a person.
  3. Thinking critically about anything you say on the internet moving forward.

And that isn’t just limited to social media accounts that are under your name. Reddit accounts can be traced back to a person by “internet detectives”; so can anonymous Twitter, Tumblr, or Instagram accounts. If you have something on the internet, you can assume it can be traced back to you, even if it’s not under your name.

None of this means you aren’t being authentic. It’s just a fact that things on the internet can be taken the wrong way. You don’t want to leave any doubt as to who you really are as a person.

The Consequences of Poor Social Media Etiquette

Consider this: In a 2005 study, it was discovered that email recipients could only identify seriousness or sarcasm 56% of the time.

On the internet, comments can easily be taken out of context. One tweet in a stream of tweets can be pulled to make you look unfavorable to the public. That’s why it’s important to consider everything that you post online. Remember that your individual opinions may not impact the way you approach your role with the nonprofit board, but other people will assume that it does.

Things that appear as jokesor are inside jokescan also appear to be serious to an outsider. Marking things with a clear “sarcasm” tag or making it clear that you’re joking in other ways (such as by using the appropriate emoticons) becomes even more critical. You may think that the words you’re using on social media are overtly joking or sarcastic, but someone else may take it quite seriously. This is something that politicians and other public figures have been struggling with for decades now.

As the world becomes increasingly less private, it becomes more important to be conscientious about the things that you say and post on social media. Consider everything that you post on the internet to be something that you have published, and make sure that you stand by your words.

None of this is to say that you can’t take firm political stances or that you can’t express your opinions: you just need to make sure that you are expressing them clearly and that you’re willing to stand behind them. Otherwise you could risk your seat on the nonprofit board, as well as the reputation of the nonprofit itself. By preemptively cleaning your accounts and paying attention to your words moving forward, you can use social media for a force of good, instead.


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