Social Media and Legal Disputes: What You Need to Know

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Despite the ever-increasing prevalence of social media in our lives -- and the frequent reminders that what we do and say on the internet does matter -- people still tend to regard their online presence with a flippant attitude. It’s become incredibly easy to type out a quick message and tap post without giving a thought to the potential consequences, but the things we publish on the internet can often come back to haunt us. This applies to anyone, but those involved in any type of legal dispute should be extra careful about their social media presence.

Find Someplace Else to Vent

For many of us, social media is our go-to option to blow off some steam. We love to complain about our bad days and annoyances. Unfortunately, most people aren’t taking the time to carefully consider our words when we’re irritated and venting our anger, and we’re likely to say something that we regret. Perhaps we didn’t really mean what we said, or expressed it in a way that could easily be taken out of context.

When you’re involved in any type of legal dispute, including a divorce or custody battle, it’s paramount to think carefully about everything you write before you post it. A good strategy is to think, before you post anything, about what that tweet or Facebook post would sound like to a judge if read in court without any context. Sure, your friends might know that you were just kidding or didn’t really mean what you said. But would a total stranger?

Check Those Check-ins

It’s not just about what you say on social media -- it’s about where you go in the real world, too (if you’re telling your networks about it). Perfectly harmless activities like attending a work-sponsored happy hour event could be presented with a negative spin. And as check-ins are often accompanied by photos, comments, geotagging and other information, a simple post might end up providing more information than you intended.

Even if you make the wise decision to keep your activities far away from your feed, remember that others can tag you in their own check-in. It’s a good idea to enable a setting that requires your approval before any post tagging you can be published on your profile.

Screenshots are Forever

There are many options to limit the visibility of your social media posts. You could choose settings that allow only your friends (or friends-of-friends) to see your content, or add a requirement that you have to approve everyone who wants to view your profile. These settings are certainly a good idea, and can help keep your content between yourself and those you trust.

But you still can’t ever guarantee that a photo or tweet absolutely won’t land in the wrong hands. It’s incredibly easy for someone to snap a screenshot of one of your posts and share it with other parties. Especially in disputes involving a former partner, it’s likely that you have many mutual friends on your social networks who could decide to share your posts with your ex. Even if you regret a post and decide to delete it, if someone has already taken a screenshot, there’s no way you can prevent it spreading.

Though we could all benefit from thinking more carefully about our social media actions and scaling down our sharing, anyone dealing with a legal dispute might be wise to choose a temporary social media blackout over the headaches and consequences that can all too easily result from your life online.

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