5 Rules Of Ethics In Social Media

I’m in the middle of a move right now, so the last few days have been full of selling everything from my three bedroom house, packing boxes to ship to NYC, working overtime, and making sure to get all of the logistics down from moving from rural Wisconsin back to the big city.  Suffice it to say, I am exhausted and running on limited patience. So– you can imagine my shock when this floated through my Twitter feed yesterday afternoon:


Yes, ladies and gentlemen, that is MY journal. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I consistently journal at my age. I’m a writer at heart –> always have been, always will be.

My initial thought was that someone had bought my blank journal the movers must have taken to Goodwill, and they were sincerely thanking me for it. Then, I saw the gold ‘Newport Beach’ writing on the front, and realized it was my most recent journal, with real-life, really personal, entries in it. Then, I saw the hashtag –> #TeamScott –> Scott happens to be someone written about in that journal. That’s when I started freaking out.

I called Goodwill, told them to hold the journal until tomorrow, and asked them not to get the two who Tweeted it in trouble. However, after I slept on it, I noticed that the two in the photo are laughing with my journal in hand, and that Tweet is one of two from the Twitter account they used, AND that Twitter account only has two followers (as of today). Sketch.

I thought it was important for Goodwill to know about this breech of privacy, and had this conversation with them:


I’m sorry –> REALLY?! Your employees posted someone else’s journal online, while at work, while wearing YOUR company’s t-shirts, and you are just going to have me contact local or regional?! No response would have been better, as my community kindly let them know:



Now some of you might argue the two employees are genuine with their thanks, and some might argue they are pulling my leg. Regardless, here is what they should have done: Follow me on Twitter and ask me to follow them back and DM them because they found something of mine, or send their inspirational message privately (if genuine).

Since they did not do that, Goodwill should have given a more genuine apology and offered to handle it themselves instead of putting work back on to me. It seems that they can easily Tweet someone’s personal details, but they can’t Tweet help to clean up their own mess?

Just around this lovely scenario, here are 5 rules to make sure you are staying ethical with your social networks:

1. Get permission –> If you want to share someone’s property or information, ask them first.
2. Keep emotionally sensitive feedback private, unless you know the other party and their comfort level with the information being public.
3. Work is still work, even on your personal profile –> Draw the line between your work social media and your personal social media. Don’t share sensitive information from your work on your personal social network.
4. Ask if you’re okay with the entire world seeing what you are posting on social (seems like common sense).
5. If you have ANY questions at all on the sensitive nature of content, DON’T SHARE IT.


What are your thoughts on this? Comment below.

Update: After publishing this post, Goodwill reached back out and had this conversation. There was no apology or recognition of wrongdoing when I picked up the journal from my local Goodwill store.


Update #2: Received this welcomed response from another Goodwill handle.


Update #3: Received apology from original Tweeter.


– Marji J. Sherman

8 thoughts on “5 Rules Of Ethics In Social Media

  1. Good heavens! I am so sorry this happened to you. Reading the official tweets, I can’t help but wonder if the organization’s corporate level has an “engage at your own risk” mentality. (This obviously does not trickle down to their store staff.) Such a shame when I see organizations too afraid or hampered by nervous leaders/attorneys to do any good with social media.

  2. I have been journaling since I was 11 years old. Since about 5 years ago I do it electronically and I disposed the books since I do not intend to publish my memoires one day. However, things in a journal are very private and I would freak out if anybody at all would read them.
    As for the company you entrusted for your removal: I don’t know how they deserve the name of Goodwill. My suggestion is Badnews.
    I wish you a good start in NYC

  3. I like your rules. Very succinct and general. As an addendum I would mention that #1 is why I feel we should be recalcitrant about posting too much (or at all) of our kids on Facebook or any other site (think about what it will be like when they turn 16 and see that stuff with their own Facebook accounts…), and #2 is why we should not erect online shrines to the dearly departed if we are not direct descendants.
    Be well!

  4. So sorry to hear this Marji. I’m amazed that so many people fail to remember that anything on social media apart from private messageing is very much in the public domain. I think this however is worse. They obviously read it, which I think is out of order. Hope it doesn’t diminish your love of writing. You put out great content.

  5. I hesitate to make a comment here. I have given this privacy transgression a fair amount of thought, though. I’m beginning to think this ‘incident’ is more complicated than just two employees playing a very cruel joke. They are not genuine with their thanks in the initial tweet. And they got called out in a way they weren’t able to anticipate ahead of time. And their management leaves a few things to be desired in the way they handled their employee’s behavior. I don’t think Goodwill Industries or their individual locations has much to draw from with regards to resources. So the talent of employees and management is lacking. It doesn’t in any way excuse their actions. I think it’s unfortunate the whole thing happened. I am sorry to hear it happened to you. I don’t know how I would have reacted if I were in your position. There is a good chance I wouldn’t have been as nice. It’s hard to know. What I really like though is your three updates at the end of the post. More often than not, time does help to put things in perspective and patience does improve outcome. That’s what I have to keep telling myself.

  6. This is a bummer, Marji, but I like that you used this opportunity as a “teachable moment”. You were able to extract some important lessons and I appreciate your taking the time to document and share your experience here.

  7. Marji that is a horrible thing and probably every writer’s worst nightmare. I am paranoid about journals getting found at all – let alone become an internet sensation. Thus I have burned every one of them over the years!
    It’s also extremely disheartening that this happened with Goodwill. That is a charity that we have supported as long as I can remember. It’s incredible to me that Goodwill took such a non-interested approach to an enormous breach of ethics. I’m going to retweet your post on this and hope that at some point, someone up high gets the message.

  8. Good gravy, how awful. This is certainly a sackable offense for the employees essentially stealing your property then parading it round unashamedly, and Goodwill should be ashamed. So sorry you have experienced this.

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