Declaration of Independence: How to Handle Personal Announcements with Style and Grace

No one handles an announcement quite like Hollywood A-lister Angelina Jolie. And when she released her op-ed New York Times column late Monday night stating that she had recently had a double mastectomy to decrease her chances of developing breast cancer (a disease both her mother and grandmother succumbed to at a young age), she also taught us a valuable lesson in controlling the message. In a world where social media takes up more and more of our day, what is public knowledge is really up to you. So as a young professional, what information you present to your “friends” and how to deliver that news is an interesting and likely heavily debated topic. When discretion is the name of the game, ask yourself, what would Angelina do? Here are four things to think about when revealing personal information online or to your social circle. And they do not involve thinking about what your mother or grandmother will think (although those might not be bad barometers either!)

1. On your own time. One of the bonuses of social media is the support network it can generate when we least expect it. It keeps us in touch and informed about those around us. But broadcasting personal news to the masses can turn people off as well. Think about who is a part of your Twitter, Facebook and Instagram feeds before you post. If you are reaching out to close friends and family, do so immediately, as privately as possible. Having a support system in place will allow you talk about what you’re going through and help you suppress the urge to share with those you would barely speak to if you passed by them on the street.

2. Thoughtful consideration. Time may not always heal all wounds, but taking time and thoughtful consideration when preparing such announcements, even if they are for social media purposes, will likely help you gain perspective on any personal issue. Being prepared will help you stay classy and show employers (or potential employers) and colleagues that you are passionate without being overly emotional. Rhyming off reasons why haters gonna hate, or why life is so unfair (looking at you Ms. Lohan, Mr. Bieber, Mr. Brown, et al), only makes you seem more volatile and unstable when you may actually be very pulled together in person.

3. What is your end game? We’ve all seen acquaintances who announce sick relatives, losing a job or dealing with an everyday cold on Facebook and Twitter. If you are one of those people, ask yourself why this information needs to be public. Are you trying to illicit sympathy from the masses? Or to inform friends and family of your plight? If it is the latter, perhaps a personal message is more appropriate (see point #1!). And if you think others will benefit by knowing about what you’re going through, the steps above will help you to determine how to best present yourself. And we only want to put our best self forward, non?

4. Be kind to others. If you know friends are going through a less than enjoyable experience, or even a happy one, such as a pregnancy, wait until they make mention of what is going on before posting something about their life. Having a family member or friend take to social media to wish you well, no matter how good the intention, stings when it’s something you are still coming to grips with, for better or worse (sort of like announcing that your well-liked show is coming off the air before the network has a chance to make it official, like Karine Vanasse of PanAm fame). Using discretion on behalf of yourself and those you care about will always ensure that you are taking the high road and will help you to avoid an unnecessary faux pas.