There used to be a time not too many years ago when “work was work” and “personal time” was just that – your personal time. But that sharp division has changed. And it has changed dramatically thanks to technology, smartphone cameras and videos, social media, and perhaps, a more enlightened society as a whole.

Today, there is little doubt that personal time has gone the way of 8-track tapes and transistor radios.  What you do on vacation, after work hours, even in the privacy of your own home, are no longer solely private matters.  Thanks to technology and social media, there’s nowhere to hide.  Right or wrong, that is the new reality.

A mere decade or two ago, one might have been comfortable getting rowdy at a bar with friends or imbibing too much at a family picnic.  After all, it was taking place on “their own time.”  But today, that same conduct posted online, can (and does) spread like wildfire. And it can have dire consequences, ranging from a tarnished image to loss of job – and in some instances, jail time.

For example, the 10th-grade math teacher who thought her “secret” Twitter account (yeah, that’s laughable), was really cool.  Her racy photos and tweets about marijuana were a big hit with students and friends. Not so with her employer – she was summarily fired.  Her own account – on her own time.

Recently, a Taco Bell marketing exec, who was on his own time, decided it was okay to repeatedly punch his Uber driver from the back seat.  The driver posted the beating on social media and Taco Bell fired him. 

And it’s not limited to novices.

How about the PR Chief of IAC – she somehow thought it was fine to tweet “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS.  Just kidding. I’m white!”  Fired – for poor judgment – again, it was on her own time.  One would think a PR pro would know better.

Pro football player Ray Rice also was on his own time when –he hit his wife in an elevator at an Atlantic City casino in the wee hours of the morning.   As a result, he lost his NFL contract and his sweet endorsement deals.  

I could cite hundreds of examples. But I’ll just cite one more… ME!   It was a different side of the equation. I fell victim to a social media post this past summer.   It was innocent enough.   I was taking an afternoon nap on the sofa in the living room at a weekend house on the Jersey shore.  Friends came in and I vaguely heard them in the kitchen.  I got up to say hello and one of them jokingly said, “Hey, you are trending on Facebook.” 

 I immediately logged into Facebook only to see an unflattering photo of me sleeping on the sofa with a caption that read, “Too much partying at the shore house.”  Nothing could have been further from the truth.  All I was doing was taking a nap.  I immediately asked my friend to remove the post – which he did with apologies.  I know it was not meant to be mean-spirited.  Regardless, it was a violation of my privacy (if we have any left) AND a falsehood.  So I submit that everyone should THINK before they post things on social channels.  What may seem funny to you could be hurtful to someone else.

None of us are perfect – certainly not me.  But we’d all be better off if we stopped for a moment and asked ourselves, “What are the consequences or impacts of what I am doing or posting?”  Remember, THERE ARE CAMERAS EVERYWHERE these days.

So whether you’re out in public on your own time or whether you’re posting something that you think is amusing, pause for a minute, consider your actions, and use some common sense!