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Five Things To Do Before Hitting "Send"

Christopher Lochhead is a former technology executive who now works as a strategy advisor.

Bad behavior and text messaging will make a mess out of your life. Just ask Tiger Woods. But Tiger is not the only one who has made a mess of his life this way. Former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer's texts to a hooker left the electronic bread crumbs that helped take him down. Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick's iPhoney behavior made a mess of his life last year too. He lost his job, got a jail term, and was forced to pay a one million dollar fine

But, dumb e-behavior is not limited to politicians. Sexual texting, or "sexting" among teenagers is now common place. Roughly 20 percent of teens admit to participating in this practice of sending sexually provocative communications, according to a survey by the National Campaign to Support Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.

In business emails and text messages are the digital DNA left by corporate criminals. For example, email evidence played a key role in convicting Computer Associates CEO Sanjay Kumar of accounting fraud. Today he is serving out a 12-year prison term.

The combination of bad behavior and text messaging is a growing epidemic. So much so, it's time for a new word to describe the problem. Welcome to the era of "messting". Messting is the act of combining bad behavior and dumb messages to make a mess out of your life.

Messting takes many forms. For example, remember that photo of you drunk, mooning your buddies on the beach that you posted on FaceBook? It could cost you your new job. Today potential employers are giving candidates e-proctology exams before issuing offer letters. According to job hunting Web site, 20 percent of companies admitted to reviewing a candidate's profile on social-networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace. This is a growing trend. It is only a matter of time before most employers follow suit.

"Messting" is also helping cops catch moronic criminals. Suspected bank scammer Maxi Sopo used FaceBook to tell his friends all about the fun he was having hiding out in Cancun. He was so clueless that he actually friended a former Justice Department official - you can't make this stuff up. Well, you know what happened next.

And possibly the worst form of messting is while driving. Studies suggest that device- distracted drivers are four times as likely to be in a crash.

What ever the form of messting, every time you hit the send button you leave a trail of e-vidence. By pressing one button, one time, you can commit a crime, prove your involvement in a crime, crash your car, incriminate yourself, make yourself, your family, and/or your employer look bad. By messting in one electronic second you can wind up in jail, unemployed, in the dog house, divorced or even dead.

As my dad says, "you can't un-ring the bell". Once you text, post, or send your communication will live forever. Here are the five things to think about before hitting send:

1. Love is temporary, text messages last forever

2. How will I feel if this message is printed on the cover of a newspaper?

3. What will happen if this message gets forwarded to 100 people?

4. There is no such thing as a confidential communication (every body tells at least one person)

5. Will the naked photo of myself I'm about to send hurt my ability to get a job?

The cocktail of bad behavior and texting can make a mess out of anyone's life. So if you going to behave badly, turn off your iPhone. And don't forget the sage words of Eliot Spitzer who said, "Never write when you can talk. Never talk when you can nod. And never put anything in an e-mail."

By Christopher Lochhead
Special to

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