To Share or Not to Share: Social Media and Decision 2016

A couple of weeks ago I got a private Facebook message from a former colleague.

He suggested that posting anything about politics or religion on social media might not bode well for my business.

The closest I've ever gotten to posting about religion is if I get my eggs dyed the perfect shade of red for Greek Easter. This meant his very polite remark must have to do with something I posted about politics. Since I hold a great deal of respect for this person, I checked my social media posts.

There was an essay in Salon by a Gen X woman explaining how she had resolved her issue with Hillary Clinton. The one before that was an editorial in the Los Angeles Times suggesting Donald Trump was not fit to be president. There was little commentary from me in each share and I had purposely ignored the comment from someone who labeled Hillary a criminal. I wasn't spewing. I wasn't ranting. I hadn't exposed some dark and sinister side of me. I had read and vetted each article. I was doing what we do on social media. I was sharing. And this was Facebook. Not LinkedIn.

But his comments derailed me.

I advise authenticity online. I advise letting your voice be heard. I advise being yourself -- smartly and with skill and diplomacy. I advise thinking before you tweet and not posting pictures of yourself in compromising situations. But his remark struck a chord. Maybe I was slipping on my taking a breath before I post and think it through philosophy.

His position was one I have always agreed with.

I certainly didn't want to lose a potential short or long term business opportunity because I shared a clip of Jimmy Kimmel's parody of The Producers on Facebook. At least I didn't think I did.

Generally I refrain from sharing my political views on social media. But I knew going into this year, given the unprecedented state of the U.S. political system it wasn't going to be easy. In fact, I warned in my very first post of the year that I might break that rule.

My knee jerk reaction was to stop.

I wouldn't share anything that even remotely looks controversial.

Then I remembered the people who wanted to get into arguments with me because I complimented Beyonce after her Super Bowl performance.

It occurred to me that if I wasn't going to share anything close to controversial in our always on/always connected world, I might be sharing nothing.

I wasn't sure that was possible.

So I experimented and have been keeping a relatively low profile as I've been digesting the advice of my friend. I've liked and commented on links that indicated my personal beliefs but have left my sharing to benign posts promoting my course or offering advice on building your personal brand.

I spent most of my time lurking and listening. I noticed that pretty much anything being posted -- even something that had nothing to do with religion or politics -- could find at least one hater.

Then I heard a damn breaking.

It coincided with the Republican debate in Detroit, the one that seemed to hit a new low with a discussion about the size of the candidate's body parts.

The reality of who might be the Republican choice for President hit people from both sides of the aisle squarely between the eyes. Even John Oliver who had vowed not to mention a certain candidate on his show could not contain himself.

As one friend so aptly put it "How am I supposed to keep my mouth shout?"

The answer got clear for me.

I won't always be able to. Nor will you or should you.

That doesn't mean I'm going to rant or engage in social media threads that get nowhere. It doesn't mean I won't think before I post or vet what I'm sharing first. Nor will this be turning into a blog on political commentary.

But it does mean I will share stuff I think is worth sharing and that stuff might sometimes be more controversial than my personal branding tip of the day or who I'm rooting for on Dancing With The Stars this season.

As the high school girl behind me on line at the post office last week smartly reminded me, this is a really scary time in U.S. history. To sit and simply be quiet when hatred and violence is being condoned and encouraged is not something I can live with.

I hope I don't lose a business opportunity because of it. But I suppose if I do, it wasn't a very good match anyway.

Joanne Tombrakos is a Storyteller and Consultant who specializes in social media, content marketing, digital strategy and personal branding as well as an adjunct professor at NYU. She blogs regularly at where this article originally appeared.