A week ago, I moved into a new apartment and did a dance that all movers/renters have faced at one time or another: The Cable Tango. A small billing error with the new cable company turned a simple online transaction into a truly epic headache. After a long week and a mountain of trivial irritations and the task still not done, I hung up on the customer service representative, the latest in a string of "truly sorry" customer service representatives, and did what any person on social media would do; I set out to verbally eviscerate them on Twitter.
I toyed with the right words for far too long. I wanted to rant, but Twitter does not really let you rant. That 140-character cut-off suddenly felt achingly short. The customer has the money and they are supposed to have the power, but with cable companies it feels like the opposite is true. No more. I wanted justice. I wanted someone to apologize. I wanted to feel heard. I just wanted... cable?
I felt myself deflate. That 140-character limit had taken the wind out of my sails, but not in a bad way. The limitation forced me to really think about what I was trying to accomplish in such a tiny block of space. It forced me to remember my 5-Second Rule: Think before you hit send. When I thought it through, I deleted the tweet and walked away.
The problem with the immediacy of social media and the effortless share is just that, in making sharing so easy, it's just that much easier to forget one of the golden tenets of good communication: self-editing. Just because you can say it, just because you can share it, does not necessarily mean that you should.
How do you know what to share and what to keep to yourself? Give yourself just five seconds. Think about who will read it and what they'll think. Think about what it will say about you and your character when stumbled upon by strangers. Social media content may feel like it's just a pebble in a fast-moving stream, blink and you'll miss it, but that doesn't erase the fact that you want people to see it and some will. Just give yourself a minute before you hit send. A lot can happen in just five seconds.