Millions of people use social media every day to be updated on political news or celebrity sightings, and to stay in touch with long-distance relatives. Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and other sites are constantly gaining new users who tend to post life updates very frequently, and sometimes even daily.
We have all heard stories of employers who decide to not hire a potential employee due to the things that he or she has posted online. What most people do not think about, however, is how their social media posts can affect the outcome of their pending legal case. While staying connected on social media can be great, it is also important to know what NOT to post on social media. Most attorneys routinely scour social media when searching for evidence that supports their client’s case. Your social media posts can provide context and a background story, even if it may be deceiving.
For example: you were recently in a car accident and you are now suing the driver who hit you. In your demand, you claim that the injuries you suffered as a result of the accident leave you unable to stand for a long period of time. The other driver’s attorney then finds your Facebook and sees a video that your friend recently posted of you at a football game, jumping up and down and happily cheering. That attorney will be able to use your friend’s video to show that your injuries are not as severe as you claimed, and it can negatively affect the outcome of your pending suit.
Here’s another example: you were recently arrested for leaving the scene of an accident, and the police suspect you may have been drinking that evening. The detective who is assigned to your case finds your Twitter account, where you tweeted a time-stamped picture of yourself at a bar while taking shots of tequila on that same night. That picture can now serve as probable cause to arrest you for additional charges.
These types of social media searches are very easy to do, especially when your page is public. To avoid situations such as the ones given as examples above, here are 5 tips on social media etiquette:
- Change your privacy settings so that your page is as private as possible.
- Presume that every online communication can and will be entered into evidence at some point. This means that that your spouse, your spouse’s family, the defendant in a criminal case, or anyone close to the defendant has access to your account. This can happen even if you all are no longer “friends” online.
- Do not post anything out of anger or strong emotion.
- Do not accept new friend requests or follower requests unless you know the person well.
- If you must talk about something related to your case, keep it off of social media. Take a social media break while your case is pending!
Keeping these tips in mind will ensure that you remain careful with all social media activity while involved in a legal suit, or at any time. When in doubt, make sure to talk to your attorney in order to lessen any potential future harm!