Risks of remote presence: Your online content can be screenshot, misused

Risks of remote presence: Your online content can be screenshot, misused


Remote attendance of events, including work, has its own challenges: you leave a lot in your trail that can work against you. Recording of such events has its own social and professional risks that you need to be aware of and give informed consent or decline where appropriate.

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.

As a teacher and author, 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 publicised 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.

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.

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.

So, I’m now leading by example and asking permission before sharing anyone else’s events, news or photos. When I do get the nod to repost anything, I add a shout-out to its origin. Recently sharing a magazine editing position with my students, I wrote, “Thanks to my colleague Jessica for finding this great job opening,” tagging her.

After taking pictures of the Zoom bar mitsvah last Saturday to show a relative who’d missed it, I texted them to Lisa, the host and her kids. They let me know the shots they liked and picked which ones could be posted, and when. After I did, our mutual Michigan brigade responded with hearts and “Mazel tov,” reminding me of the beauty of staying connected via social media – with boundaries.

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