If you're not putting too much thought into what you share on Facebook and your other social media accounts, this might be a good time to remember you must think before you post.
Take this as a cautionary tale: A North Carolina woman is being forced to pay $500,000 (£400,000) to settle a defamation lawsuit over a post she wrote on Facebook, local TV station WCNC reports.
A couple of years ago, Jacquelyn Hammond allegedly posted just one sentence about a former co-worker, without actually mentioning the woman by name. That in itself shouldn't be a problem. Right?
Well, not exactly. The post said, "I didn’t get drunk and kill my kid." According to the complaint, Hammond was referring to the son of a colleague, who died in a gun accident with another boy back in 1976. That colleague, who is the plaintiff in the current case, Davyne Dial, was not drunk when she lost her son, and she wasn't responsible for his death, either.
She therefore had grounds to say that Hammond's post actually constituted a libellous statement, and sued her in 2015. (These type of defamation lawsuits can be made on grounds of libel, which means a written statement is defamatory, or slander, which is a spoken defamatory claim.)
Last month, the women finally settled the lawsuit. Now, Hammond will have to pay Dial £200,000 in actual damages for the defamation and emotional distress, and she will also have to shell out an extra £200,000 in punitive damages. Her single sentence post came at a cost of a whooping £400,000.
Was it worth it? We're going to take a stab and say that no, it wasn't. It might seem that because something you share lives online, it's not "real" and doesn't have real consequences. But that's just plain false.
So do yourself a favour and abide by the golden rule: Think twice before you post. And just like my mother would say, "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all."