The Internet is a marvelous thing. Never before have people been given such an easy opportunity to be passive-aggressive whiners or completely unprofessional within such a public forum. As long as you can hide behind that glowing monitor of yours, anything goes, right? Well, not really. Sure, there are people in various professions who have benefited and who have built a brand by being unfiltered and uncensored. Shoe himself has left a distinct mark in our industry for being unafraid to speak his mind and call people out. However, there is a fine line between being outspoken and being unprofessional and immature. In this post I’ve outlined a few different instances where it’s best to just STFU (Shut The F*** Up).

Posting Passive-Aggressive Updates

It’s all too easy to log into Twitter or Facebook and tweet or update something passive-aggressive and vague enough so that the person you’re talking about doesn’t know you’re talking shit about him or her, but angry and public enough that your friends will sit up and notice. When I was new to this field, I was guilty of pulling that move, and it’s a punk move. It doesn’t resolve the conflict with the person you have an issue with, and it just makes you look like an attention-seeking drama queen. Have a problem with someone? Act like a grownup and contact that person about it. Don’t fire up Facebook and post an update about how “I thought I knew who my true friends were but I guess I was wrong.” Oh really? Well I’m sure the person you’re talking about thought he had more mature friends than that.

Whining About Work in a Public Forum

Everyone bitches about work from time to time. Nobody’s job is 100% perfect. However, there’s a time and a place to vent about work frustrations, and that place isn’t on freaking Facebook. Remember PSN (Pre-Social Networking) when you’d have conversations with your friends and family in real life and could safely gripe about your boss or annoying coworker? That’s what you should do instead of hitting that “Share” button. News flash: your boss can probably see your profile, and if he can’t, plenty of other people who can show him can. Lots of people have been fired for posting dumb shit online. Hate your boss? Complain to your spouse or close friend. Bored at work? Browse crap on the Internet or play Angry Birds — don’t trumpet to the whole world that you’re bored on company time. It astounds me how stupid people are when it comes to oversharing.

Granted, you could argue that some office environments are more lax than others and that they don’t care if you post the occasional gripe or lamentation. I think that if you have a laid-back work environment and a mellow boss, you’re less likely to have a reason to complain in the first place. Plus, as an employer, you should care about what your staff is saying about you online. They’re acting as your brand ambassador whether it’s intentional or not, so you have to monitor these mentions and make note of any negative behavior. Would you want a surly, uninspired person on your team?

Whining About Clients/Customers in a Public Forum

You’d think this was a no-brainer, but I’ve seen it happen. Some people bite the hand that feeds them and will post complaints about clients or customers for their current and potential clients and customers to see. Pretty unprofessional in the most basic sense of the word, right? If you’re frustrated with a client or a customer, talk to your co-workers or your boss about it. The last thing you want to do is whine publicly about how stubborn and ignorant your client is being or about how big a moron this customer is for asking a stupid question.

Oversharing Private Work Matters

Nobody wants to see how the sausage gets made. Many companies seem like puppies and rainbows on the outside, but every business has its hiccups and headaches from time to time. Airing out your dirty laundry in public can make people question your professionalism and whether you guys have your shit together over there. If you’re firing someone, getting audited, etc., these sensitive matters should be handled with tact and grace instead of being trumpeted out to your 12,000 Twitter followers. You can share company news with your fans and followers, but you need to identify which information is worth sharing and how the message should be framed instead of being 100% transparent at the cost of inadvertently harming your reputation.

What say you, readers, are there any other instances where people need to step away from the computer and take a break from incessant over-sharing? Have you seen instances where public posts or rants have bitten that person or company in the ass?

By Rebecca Kelley

Rebecca Kelley is the Director of Marketing for This or That Media. She also runs Mediocre Athlete, a hobby blog about exercising and training, and My Korean Mom, a blog about her harsh but amusing Korean mother. In her spare time, Rebecca is a freelance blogger for hire, loves food and movies, and trains for marathons and triathlons.

114 thoughts on “Knowing When to STFU”
      1. Did you know that STFU also referred to the Southern Tenant Farmers’ Union? It was a large labor union, formed in Arkansas in 1934, which lobbied the federal government for better New Deal reforms. Dissolved in 1960. Commonly causes mirth among US History students who are aware of the acronym’s double meaning. Isn’t that an LOL moment or what?

    1. The same rules apply in social networking in real life, right? Think before you speak or write. When in doubt, hit the remove button.

    2. It’ll help to treat everything you post as if everyone online could read it. That should make you reconsider sharing anything that you don’t wish the public to see.

    3. Right to the point here, there should be a key on keyboards in the near future with a STFU button.

    4. Q. Which is the lesser of two evils, ignorance or apathy?
      A. I dont know and I just dont care.
      Now theres a definate bad Q & A for any time or situation..
      try not to get caught up in it ever.

  1. Rebbecca..facebook vents are out of control..people just don’t care anymore..people have this itch to share their anger with the world for some reason or another.

    “Black Seo Guy “Signing Off”

    1. I think people these days don’t give a d…n on the real world and use the cyber one for their frustrations…

      Hi there Black Seo Guy, again after you 😀

    2. While Facebook has proved its mettle as the new king of social media networking, some of its users just can’t understand the fine line between tactlessness and being bold and courageous. Any thoughts to add on this, Rebecca?

      1. I agree. There’s a fine line between “bold/outspoken” and just plain rude and mean.

      1. Most people probably think it’s cathartic without realizing the long-term ramifications.

  2. Rebecca, if people actually STFU, websites like the one you currently work with would have a lot less material to talk about…

    You’re 100% correct of course :.)

      1. You play Angry Birds, too? 😛 I just love it since each time you beat a level, you unlock the next one. I do wish that we had more than one new level unlocked at all times. It’s rather disheartening to be stuck just because you’re having problems with one particular scenario. Nonetheless, it’s one of my favorites for 2010.

    1. Some people say that Facebook is for personal their friends while LinkedIn is for their professional contacts. But the thing is, the line between friends and colleagues/boss has long been eroded in Facebook. Nowadays, you can’t be too careful with what you post.

      1. I think this also illustrates the importance of tweaking your Facebook privacy settings. Make sure that whatever you’re whining about at work can’t be read by your boss or colleagues.

      2. I have always been a stickler to Rotary Club’s 4-way test when I’m posting updates on my Facebook page.

        Is it the TRUTH?

        Is it FAIR to all concerned?

        Will it bring GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS?

        Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?

        Who says these four questions aren’t the shiznit when you’re tweeting or updating your FB status?

  3. That’s partly how I decided where to buy my new car. I was dealing with a few different dealers and one of them decided to sling mud at one of the other dealers. I avoided the mud slinger and went with the dealer he was talking about instead. I’ve been 100% happy so far. 😀

  4. I know people on facebook that borders on the ridiculous…:

    nowadays actually is probably normal left your partner via facebook, maybe instead of talking in person.

    1. Establishing your network of contacts goes beyond geographical and cultural differences as you get to know and meet people who share your interests from almost all sides of world. In this day and age of texting and high-speed Internet, people would rather PM you on Facebook than chatting with you up front.

  5. interesting post Rebecca…in terms of “Oversharing Private Work Matters” I agree that you need to identify which information is worth sharing and how the message should be framed instead of being 100% transparent at the cost of inadvertently harming your reputation.”

    However, some people like internet marketing expert Chris Farrell has found success being like you say, 100% transparent. And if you read his testimonials on you’ll see he has raving fans for his genuine, “brutall”y honest personality.

    And I have followed him for a long time and joined his membership and he does “literally” reveal everything, even the serious mishaps he has with his business.

    So…What say you, Rebecca?

    1. I’ve seen instances where 100% transparency is loved by the community but not by the company’s employees and shareholders. It’s a slippery slope for sure, and you really need to think about how much to reveal so that your community/followers and your employees/funders are satisfied.

  6. Nice read. I agree with you on all points especially on oversharing private work matters. Although I might add, there’s too much sharing of personal matters, too.

    1. Great post! I think that what you said apply for both work and private life matters. The trick really is to think twice before rushing to type what you’re about to say. There are no written rules on social networking etiquette, nothing I’ve read that is, but common sense should just about cover the guidelines.

    2. Oversharing is also an online security issue. There are privacy features in place that people rarely opt to use. They fail to realize that what they post can be viewed by just about anyone if they don’t tweak their privacy settings.

    3. Tell me about it. I don’t see why they think anyone would be interested with the blow by blow account of what they’re up to at any given day.

      1. More than anything else, social sites provide better ways to keep in touch with our classmates, friends and family. Nonetheless, bitching about your work or the hard time you had going home isn’t going to brighten up their homepages anytime soon…

    4. You know why the old maxim “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all” is my favorite of all? Besides being applicable to online and offline conversations, isn’t that just the nicest thing to do no matter how old you are?

      1. A social networking site is like a virtual meeting place where people can hang out and discuss different topics. Anything under the sun, in fact. However, I completely agree that having a personal discussion is still the way to go. 🙂 Great post!

  7. Nice read. I agree with you on all points especially on oversharing. Although I might add, there’s too much sharing of personal matters, too.

    1. Great stuff you got here, Rebecca! We should be careful about the information we share especially in social networking sites. With Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and the rest of the popular social networks, it has also become easier for someone to stalk you and harass you online.

      1. When it comes to knowing when to stfu, so many people have a lot to learn still. Albeit, some people end up getting addicted to senseless cyber-interaction when they should be out enjoying life! Enough said. Time for a beer.

  8. I heard that some employers even check applicants’ Facebook or Twitter accounts to get more background information.

    1. I read an article a few months back. A pizza shop waitress in Charlotte was fired for posting disparaging remarks about a couple of customers. Her boss got hold of a copy of the comment she posted.

      1. The only thing I am concerned about is why the poor waitress ‘friended’ her employer on Facebook in the first place. Unless you alter the privacy settings to maximum (essentially taking away the ‘social’ component of your page) all of your posts will stick out like a sore thumb.

      2. If its publicized on the web, and even more so, if it’s a personal attack, it technically becomes slander.

    2. I’ve definitely done some snooping to check out applicants when I’ve done hiring for past jobs. What are they like on Facebook/Twitter, what do they blog about, etc — it’s all valuable information that gives insight about the potential hire and his/her personality and professionalism.

  9. That’s why I’m one of those few people who don’t have a Facebook or Twitter account. I’m not into sharing personal stuff.

      1. We’re on the same ground here. I only have a Facebook account since I fell in love with Farmville and I just had to get those limited items they only release during special occasions. 😛

    1. “The people who mind don’t matter, and the people who matter don’t mind.” In other words, the people who truly love you — in this case family and close friends — won’t mind if you’re dropping bombs all over the web. Can’t say about your employer though.

      1. One of my favorite Dr. Seuss quotes. Good point. As long as you’re sure that you’ve set your settings to private and you trust your friends not to share what you said to others then it shouldn’t be a problem at all.

      2. While social networking sites have become places for establishing connections and meeting friends, they have also become likely places for identity theft and fraud, aside from the less grave tongue-bashing and backstabbing. As you have to provide certain information such as your e-mail address, name, and location, others use these information and pretend to be you, especially when they are into illegal activities

  10. Just keep in mind that not all “friends” in Facebook are real friends. Some of them may just be acquaintances or former friends. You probably wouldn’t want to go TMI on people who you barely know.

    1. So true. Ranting online may be satisfying to a certain point but it won’t really do you any good.

  11. The use of social networking site exposes personal and business branding. It only makes sense that you’d treat every post or update as a reflection of the brand.

    1. In order to get visibility for your profile, you need to network. This means, get out there and connect with the other users. Send them messages, add them as friends and leave comments on their user profiles. You can also join and start groups that are related to topics that connect back to your brand, participate in forums and chats, as well as special activities a site may have. If your idea of social networking is just mindless, tactless, machine gun dissing, you’re in for a nasty surprise.

  12. I see a lot of Facebook status updates similar to the examples you mentioned. It seems that many people don’t consider the possible repercussions of what they’re doing.

    1. On the other hand, it begs the question “Is it really private if I post it on the Internet?”

      1. Good question. I don’t think that there is such a thing as privacy on social networking sites regardless of how well you set them to private. For one, anyone from your contacts could easily share what you posted.

      2. You could fall into the trap of someone who pretends to be somebody else. For example, they might offer you a job or want to meet up with you just to get your money. This can lead to cyberstalking, where the stalker uses electronic media such as the Internet to pursue or harass you. And you know what’s even worse? God forbid those 4chan bandits get to your account!

        1. Well, to tell you the truth, I’d love to see those web terrorists “spruce up” the Cooks’ Source website…

  13. It’s not only rants that we should all be careful about posting on social networking sites. Posting inappropriate photos can also be an issue.

    1. One of the best example probably is when you’re calling in sick to work to attend a party or something. Make sure that you don’t post or ask friends not to tag you in photos of the party unless you want to get busted.

  14. Why in the world would you ever add your boss as a friend on Facebook? Especially if you think he’s a “pervvy wanker”?

    1. I know some people who have breached employment contracts and had facebook screenshots or status updates used as evidence against them. Well, you just have to be conscious of what you are saying on a social networking site.

      I used to talk badly about my job and employers all the time. I just made sure I wasn’t telling the entire internet or any vague untrustworthy sources. Come to think of it, doing that would be quite a dick move, ain’t it?

      1. The best thing to do in this situation? How about using the words “A little bird told me” or at least you could fib that you just read the incident somewhere.

  15. Well, everyone’s free to express their thoughts. It’s up to them how they choose to do it. Besides, they’re the ones who’ll suffer the consequences anyway.

    1. Reflection moment: She (I mean the waitress) added her boss to her friend list. This is no more of an invasion of privacy than if he had heard her saying it directly to his face. It’s not like he went digging for something to use against her. She posted it right to his homepage! 🙁 Epic fail.

  16. Nothing’s really private once you post them online. Regardless of how you make best use of privacy settings, there’s no guarantee that anyone on your list of friends wouldn’t inadvertently share what you said to others.

    1. I couldn’t agree more. It’s best to treat your online persona as an extension of your offline one. Not much difference there actually. You don’t go around ranting to just about all your friends. You’d usually choose the ones you trust would keep what you say to themselves.

  17. To be a friend with someone, you don’t have to spend every minute with them. Digitally speaking, you don’t have to tweet or share on Facebook what you had for breakfast or who you woke up with the next morning after a hard party. Capische?

    1. Woohoo! I knew someone’s as irked as me when I pore over these kinds of status updates!

  18. Hmmmmmmm…. Love It… this got to be the best blog post I have ever read… relatively speaking… gotta keep your sh!t in perspective…

    Thanks Rebecca.. yea some people just need to STFU… :):):):)…

    Love IT…

    1. Is it just me or does anybody else here believe that we teach babies to walk and talk then tell them to just sit down and shut up when they reach their teenage years? LMAO 😀

  19. The best solution if you can’t shut it is to make sure that you don’t add your boss and co-workers. Better yet, don’t add anyone else except family and closest friends.

    1. Freedom of speech is exactly that, the freedom to express yourself, and the freedom to agree and/or disagree. Any comments made on an individual­’s Facebook account is an individual expressing her thoughts.

      1. Well, whether online or not, getting carried away with your emotions can lead to slander, too.

  20. Unfortunat­ely, some are crucified for what may be some truthful opinions. But like you said, perhaps it is better if they don’t share it in a public forum where they can easily be misunderstood.

  21. Have you ever used silence to make a point? Silence gives many messages. Being able to use the sound of silence is one of the greatest conversational arts. (Just posting this to explain why I haven’t posted a tweet or anything on Facebook for almost a month.) Keep up the good work, Rebecca. I bet you can’t beat my score in Angry Birds!

    1. Angry Birds? My sons love that game. I wonder why the pigs look so cute while being annihilated by angry-looking (and I mean angry-looking) birds?

    1. Social networking sites provoke extreme reactions. You either like it or hate it. There are no if, but and in betweens.

  22. On the topic of browsing crap when you are “in between work” at work.

    Lamebook (who doesn’t know it)
    Texts from last night (also an Iphone app, worth the investment)
    FML (also an iphone app)

    There is always ebay and other stuff 🙂

    Happy working!

  23. Posting disparaging comments for everyone in your network to see speaks a lot about a person’s character.

  24. Online marketers use social network sites as tools to promote their blogs, products and services basically because of the overwhelmingly significant number of people that they have brought together to form communities. Nonetheless, knowing when to STFU is the real key here. Oops, I think my comment has just become NSFW. 😀

  25. People who have issues with you or for whatever reason just can search on your name and stalk or harass you. In order to address this, users are allowed to report or block users that go out of bounds. Perhaps it’s time to rekindle that old flame from junior high?

  26. You also have the relationship whiners as well. One would think that if you have an online brand, that the person would not exactly feel comfortable with complaining about their love life, but I have seen it too many times. No one wants to know how big of a pain in the butt a significant other…especially those you work with or even worse- customers! Pretty really do need to realize how they make themselves look sometimes on their social media profiles

  27. I only have 2 co-workers on my list of facebook friends. I could have more, but I think it’s dangerous. My company will sometimes search for its name, so I tend not to use its name on the Internet.

  28. Great post Rebecca!

    I guess people just likes the attention. It makes them special inside to talk about their private lives in front of people who don’t care about them one bit. SMH

  29. You speak the truth. As a kid, I was always told that there’s a time & place for certain things & that sometimes there’s no need to open your mouth about something at all.

  30. winner! this post wins the most boring post of the year award. how does this stuff pass quality control on shoemoney?

  31. Great article and I agree with you with every point, but I suppose this is social networking and it’s never going to stop to be honest, my Facebook is always got those hate status’s and crap like that, annoys the hell out of me!

  32. haha, I remember my previous boss in sales used to drill this whole STFU-stuff into our heads all the time. Great blog by the way

  33. Quality content will usually win the readers vote. Well placed humor is ok too and this one covers that bed nicely 😉

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  35. I think I will become a great follower.Just want to say your article is striking. The clarity in your post is simply striking and i can take for granted you are an expert on this subject.

  36. You can’t stop people from whining on the internet. Internet is neutral. It all depends on how the people use it. Viewers can judge for themselves.

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