It's easy to forget this with all the focus on the benefits it brings: giving a voice to those who might not otherwise have one, and in particular smaller businesses without access to big marketing departments; allowing potential buyers and sellers of services to connect; and providing a source of immense and informed comment.
However, it also shows the worst of human nature.
As lawyers, we often see startling examples of this. For example, in just the last few months we have advised in the following circumstances:
All of these, and many other similar internet, Facebook and blog posts made everyday fail one simple test: What would Granny say? It might seem daft, but a good rule of thumb when dealing with social media is to stop just before hitting the "Post" button, and double check that the message that you are about send is one that you are happy to be seen on the internet for all eternity (to paraphrase a well known internet expression: When something's posted, it stays posted). Applying a little bit of common sense, and making sure that your post is something that you would be happy to lay claim to in discussions with your dear old Gran, is one of the best social media habits which can be adopted.
Don't fall into the trap of firing off "just a quick reply" - Do so in haste and repent at leisure.
Over the next few weeks, it is my plan to post further blogs highlighting the issues and problems that arise from abuse of social media; focussing particularly on business, legal and commercial risks which might arise. However, I am confident that no matter what problem is being considered, asking if Granny would have approved of the original post will almost certainly have prevented it arising.
It may not be legal advice - but then doesn't Granny always know best?