Why Politicians, Celebrities Should Beware of Touch Screens

After all his troubles with Twitter in the past, you might think that former US representative Anthony Weiner would be more careful, but he is in the news again for favoriting a tweet about sexting. According to the Slate article about this story, he claims that he did this by accident, touching the star symbol while scrolling the page.

This happens all too frequently when you are using apps on a touch screen device. Almost every day I inadvertently view someone's profile on LinkedIn while I am scrolling through updates one handed. I can easily imagine that someone could also like or favorite posts that they don't actually intend to endorse.

When my fingers slip on a touch screen the consequence are insignificant -- at most I leave someone wondering why I am suddenly interested in their profile -- but for politicians, celebrities and other high-profile social media personalities these mistakes are much more serious. As Anthony Weiner has found to his cost every slip on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest or whatever will be seen by someone. Even if you quickly delete or reverse the action there is always someone quick enough to screen capture the evidence and post it on their blog. I have a collection myself of social media mishaps that were corrected in seconds but not fast enough to stop me capturing a permanent record.

So what should high-profile users do to avoid these problems? Here are five practical solutions:

AVOID TOUCH SCREEN DEVICES. To minimize the risk of accidents one approach is simply to use traditional mouse-and-keyboard computers as much as possible. This is awkward on the road but in the office there is no reason why you can't do this. Right now I am sitting with two laptops (one for typing; one for Spotify) and an iPhone. It's tempting but unnecessary for me to check social media on the phone.

USE TOUCH SCREENS CAREFULLY. When you are travelling and really have to use a phone or tablet then use them with great care. Use both hands and be careful where you place your finger to scroll the screen. Never try to scroll one handed while you are doing something else. Definitely never do it while you are driving for safety reasons.

CONSIDER APPS LIKE HOOTSUITE. Instead of using the Twitter, Facebook and other apps directly try using a single social-media management app like Hootsuite. With Hootsuite you can still select a post accidentally when you are trying to scroll but you need to click again to actually like or favorite a post, giving you a chance to hit cancel instead.

BE CAREFUL ABOUT WHO YOU FOLLOW. When you are in politics, sport or entertainment you should in any case be careful about which accounts you follow, but being especially careful in this area also reduces the chances that you accidentally like, favorite, repin or retweet something that will cause you embarrassment later. If you need to watch something controversial for information the best plan is to have a separate, anonymous account for this activity. You might, for example, want to be watching extremist party accounts to keep track of what they say, but you don't need to use your public account for that.

NEVER TWEET UNDER THE INFLUENCE. Using social media is like driving or piloting an airplane. If you are too drunk to drive you are too drunk to use Twitter or Facebook. After that first glass turn off the phone or tablet and leave it with the car keys in a safe place. It's easy enough to make an embarrassing mistake sober. Don't make it harder.

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Lectures, Workshops, Coaching and Writing

For lectures, workshops, one-to-one coaching and writing about social media and other communication topics you can contact me through my website http://andrewhennigan.com, by email at conseil@andrewhennigan.com or by phone on 0046 730 894 475 in Sweden or 0033 6 79 61 42 81 in France.

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