A Friendly Reminder: Social Media Is Social

I have made that point before and I’ll make it here again. If you are out there trying to build your social network, don’t engage in behaviors that have the opposite effect.  But we all know examples from the worst horror stories of downright nastiness to irksome comments that at best make a poor first impression.  In a social network where contacts may be fleeting anyway, a first impression may be the only chance you ever have.

I suppose I could give you examples of nasty comments or alphageekery I have personally received, but what would be the point? We all know what it looks like when we get these socially inept messages fired (or perhaps misfired) at us. We all know what it feels like to be hit by one of them.

I try to remind myself not to put goals before people, because it’s in the getting-things-done mode that we seem to lose touch with our connections to people.  Call me naive, but I suspect that most antisocial behavior is unintentional.  Before we ever realize what we have done, we’ve accidentally made asses of ourselves for the whole Internet to witness. Like me:

Someone who contributes a great deal to my university’s community was tweeting some valuable resources this week as she always does.  When she shared the link to our style manual, which had styles for technology, I was very interested.  I have wanted to provide training for people in my department on using a consistent style for our technical documentation and had even looked at ]style guides elsewhere.

When I looked at our university’s style guide, I questioned the choice of italics for menu items and hyperlinks.  Because I respected this person and wanted to get a feel for if I was off-base in my opinion on question of this style, I tweeted this: “not a fan of the choice for italics for hyperlinks & buttons in Tech Style Guide-makes it harder for users to scan documentation.”

The problem was, I was interested in my personal goal, I was seduced by the 140 character limit, and I had not reread my tweet.  This is someone who should be thanked for bringing this information to us, and my tweet sounded like I was shooting the messenger for a style guide she didn’t create.  (Luckily, this person did not take it in that way: a credit to her character, not mine.)

The truth is sometimes I wanted to believe all bad behavior is caused by other people wanting to make their mark by any means necessary.  Sometimes I forget that the “other people” are really us: people who forget to think of others first and who later decide to write a blog post as apology and parable.

7 Responses to “A Friendly Reminder: Social Media Is Social”

  1. Says:

    Great points Nikki. Not putting our goals before people is at the core of what web 2.0 is all about. Relationship building is by far the most effective way to meet your goals. This is especially true when it comes to social media platforms like twitter, facebook, and friendfeed.

  2. Says:

    I think you make a point that never gets old and people need to be reminded about this time and time again. I think of the recent Ashton vs. CNN race on Twitter and wonder if it was about being social or about gimmicks and putting themselves first. I wrote a post this morning about my observation of this whole Twitter race - https://is.gd/sYkz

  3. Says:

    It’s so true that we have a fault where we easily fall into the belief that we are right and never in the wrong and forget that our typed words cannot convey body language etc that would give the words a new meaning. Often people are quick to get defensive because everyone feels they are being personally attacked.

  4. Says:

    Cool post! I’ll bookmark this page and wish to share it to all my friends and clients.

  5. Says:

    I think you make a solid argument for thinking about what we say before we say it…and seriously considering who will be impacted and in what ways they will be impacted. It doesn’t take much to burn bridges or be defeated by your own words before you even engage in your battles.

  6. Says:

    @Gordon: I like your test “seriously considering who will be impacted and in what ways they will be impacted”. Sometimes it’s good to sit on what we write before we send it, and with Twitter and other social media, want to be part of the instant stream and fail to proofread for tone.

    @Mike: Right. We can get a lot out of social media, but like any other relationship in real life, you have to give as well.

  7. Says:

    Thanks a lot, wonderful post.