Last Word: Social Notworking

From Facebook to Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and more, the opportunities to post inappropriately and to spend time on personal excursions rather than doing work continue to expand.

By Peter Post, Director, The Emily Post Institute

More and more, The Emily Post Institute is asked to include advice about appropriate social networking activities in our seminars. The use and number of social networking platforms has grown exponentially over the last few years. From Facebook to Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Tumbler, Pinterest, and others, the opportunities to post inappropriately and to spend time on personal excursions rather than doing work have expanded, as well.

The advice we give on how to engage in the social networking world distills down to five recommendations:

  1. Think before posting. Social media makes it easy to post quickly—in some cases, like Twitter, that’s the whole point. How would you feel if a parent or boss saw your post? Are you sure you’ll stand by your post hours later? If not, then don’t post it. Humor is another danger, as there is no accompanying tone of voice or facial expression. Kenneth Cole found out people don’t always see the humor when he tweeted the following about a new line of clothing just at the time of the uprising in Egypt in 2011: “Millions are in uproar in #Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available online at [link redacted] -KC.” The negative response to this tweet led to: #boycottKennethCole. Not the result he or his brand was looking for.
  2. Speak to your entire audience. It’s easy to think you are posting to just your close friends and followers. But they’re not the only people who can see your posts. The boss you just trashed can see them. The client you belittled can see them. The supplier you complained about can see them. And worse yet, the one time you really wish they couldn’t see your post, that’s the post they are sure to see. Privacy settings can help, but don’t assume they are a guarantee.
  3. Avoid negative posts. Trashing other people who you think have wronged you may feel good for a minute, but that trashing can backfire. Not only are the people being trashed angered and alienated by your attack, other people who see the trashing may be unimpressed with you, as well. The same goes for complaining in general—people don’t want to hear it.
  4. Don’t share overly personal information. Because anyone can see how you present yourself, think carefully about the pictures you post, the information you share about yourself, and the issues you pontificate about before you hit that send/post button.
  5. Don’t “social notwork.” The Urban Dictionary made “social notworking” its March 12, 2009, Urban Word of the Day ( Notworking) and defined it as: “The practice of spending time unproductively on social networking Websites, especially when one should be working.” Realistically, that definition has grown to encompass more than just surfing the Web for personal reasons. Social notworking is any online activities done during work hours that are personal rather than business related. That means time spent tweeting or e-mailing; looking at or posting on Pinterest or Instagram; or visiting any other social networking sites, such as online dating sites, for personal reasons on company time. When a person is seen social notworking, the image is of someone shirking work responsibilities. And the image others have of you at work matters. Colleagues who repeatedly see you social notworking can’t help but be frustrated that you’re “goofing off” while they’re getting the work done. For managers, that frustration is multiplied as they see potential productivity being lost. You can social notwork yourself right out of a job.



Peter Postis a director of The Emily Post Institute(, great-grandson of Emily Post, and co-author of “The Etiquette Advantage in Business.”


Lorri Freifeld is the editor/publisher of Training magazine. She writes on a number of topics, including talent management, training technology, and leadership development. She spearheads two awards programs: the Training Top 100 and Emerging Training Leaders.