Had I realized the group owned the recordings and that they would repost clips and highlights from them forever, I might not have done it. A colleague said her church had taken to livestreaming services with the same caveat. Make sure you find out in advance when and how your images will be shown publicly, even if you think you’re only attending one event. That panel, ceremony, or reading could be repromoted in the future, with your images or video used for other purposes later down the road. This will give you the chance to opt out, or at least to dress nicer and wash your hair. (Which I’d recommend doing anyway.)
You Can Veto Video
A well-known Australian podcaster saw my substance abuse recovery posts on Instagram and asked if he could interview me. Flattered, I said sure, assuming that because it was a podcast they’d just be recording my voice. Yet the host expected to videotape me too. Not wanting someone else to control even more visual content of me after previous bad experiences, I said, “I’d prefer just doing audio.” They said “no problem” and it wasn’t. You don’t get what you don’t ask for.
Limit Your Exposure
When I was thrilled to be on author Laura Zam’s vlog Sexual Healing, posted on Youtube and distributed by Pandora, I asked if I could approve the clips of myself before they were posted on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. She agreed, which made me feel more comfortable doing the interview.
This may not be possible for every opportunity, but it never hurts to ask and better control your image, especially these days, when you never know when your online content will be screen-grabbed and reposted elsewhere.
Go “Off the Record” in Writing
Launching online classes and publishing seminars with students from all over the world, I knew the rules were changing. But before the session had even ended, I was confused to see pictures of my Zooming self posted on Instagram and the photo of a group email I’d sent to my class shared on Twitter, along with my syllabus.
I immediately contacted the posters—who’d innocently, in their excitement, thought they were promoting me and my course. I explained that my classes were private and asked if they’d take the photo and info down. Now I write on the syllabus that everything that happens in class and in correspondence is off the record, not to be publicized or distributed. While protecting myself, it also lets my pupils and clients understand my expectations and rules in advance, and it serves as a reminder that not everything is sharable.
As students, friends, and colleagues have embraced online communication wholesale, I’ve needed to explain to them what doesn’t work for me. I don’t want to be phoned, Facetimed, or texted “Hey what’s up?” during working hours. I miss many direct messages on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.
I prefer direct emailing so I have an easily found record of the conversation. Since I’m over-emailed, I prefer to be taken off any group lists, especially the annoying ones where the poster uses BCC so that I get thousands of responses from strangers. I don’t appreciate seeing other’s business solicitations, ads, unsolicited criticism, or provocative comments on my social media. (That’s what your pages are there for.) And since I prefer to use Zelle instant payment, I don’t appreciate being sent money I’m owed by PayPal or Venmo—services I no longer want to pay fees for, except in emergencies.
Publicize Your Preferences
When someone wants to be supportive, I now explain specifically how they can help. In my case, that’s showing up to online events they’re invited to. Or by following me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or LinkedIn. It’s great when people like the YouTube videos of panels I’ve linked to my website, or repost event fliers I’ve shared publicly. And all authors love when someone leaves a good review of their books on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Goodreads—especially when the praise is accompanied by five stars.
Always Ask Before You Share
A woman I know complained that her mom shared photos of her wedding and then news of her pregnancy on Facebook before she and her husband wanted to go public. I remember how shocked I’d been when a cousin posted about my father’s death before I’d told anyone. Even if it’s legal, I don’t want my images, work, or private life dispersed without my approval.