What to do if your old social media posts come back to bite you

Character counts — especially on the internet.

MSNBC host Joy Reid apologized Sunday after a Twitter user’s Internet Archive search revealed decade-old blog posts, authored during her time covering Florida politics, referring to then-Gov. Charlie Crist as “Miss Charlie” and speculating he was gay — comments many decried as homophobic.

“In addition to friends and coworkers and viewers, I deeply apologize to Congressman Crist, who was the target of my thoughtlessness. My critique of anti-LGBT positions he once held but has since abandoned was legitimate in my view. My means of critiquing were not,” she wrote. “Re-reading those old blog posts, I am disappointed in myself. I apologize to those who also are disappointed in me. Life can be humbling. It often is. But I hope that you know where my heart is and that I will always strive to use my words for good. I know better and I will do better.”

Crist, now a congressman representing Florida’s 13th district, accepted Reid’s apology in a tweet: “Long forgotten, but thank you, Joy. I appreciate you.” But will you be so fortunate when it happens to you? Here’s what to do if your embarrassing or offensive posts make an unwelcome return in 2017:

Assess the damage and apologize
Ask: “Have I hurt someone? Is this potentially damaging to my family, friends (or) career? Is this something that is going to change the way that the public perceives me?” social media entrepreneur Natalie Zfat told Moneyish. If necessary, extend an apology to the person or group you offended, said digital media consultant Amy Vernon.

It may even help to schedule a one-on-one talk with an organization that represents the target group of your comments — think the Anti-Defamation League or GLAAD — and ask how you can aid their efforts, she added. “You’re showing that you are truly sorry and you’re trying to do something to make things better,” Vernon said. “It’s not going to please everybody, but it at least shows an attempt to do something other than just lip service.”

Tell the truth
With any apology, Zfat said, “strive for honesty on every level….

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