When I was younger, my grandmother used to say, “In social situations, never discuss politics, sex or religion.” That sage advice has stuck with me like a mantra through every off-site business meeting, networking event, backyard BBQ and even all those company Xmas parties. It’s a simple acumen, without a lot of adornment, so perhaps that’s why lately many people seem to forget that it’s applicable to social media.
This week has been a true test of wills. It’s been a powerful week with landmark shifts in our culture and many stigmas falling away. Anyway you look at it, it’s an exciting time in our country. In extraordinary times, people’s “true colors” emerge, both positive and negative.
Social media: a social environment where the rules still apply
If you’re connected via social media to prospects, customers and potential business partners (which most of us are), then please consider making use of my grandmother’s mantra before you take your posts and comments public.
Look, we all have strong opinions about the things we’re passionate about. I’ve got my causes and you’ve got yours. I respect your right to have those and in the appropriate arena, we can have a civil discussion around those topics. However, I believe we’re in a time of great change and awakening…and being even more diligent with civility is required. Judgments (if we must have them) should be confined to our own feelings toward other human beings.
“If This Conversation Were in Person, Would I Still Say This?”
No one wants to see hateful posts and comments. No one wants to see your sad attempt at humor if it’s at someone else’s expense. Humor is not for amateurs. If there’s a kernel of nagging doubt about your attempt at humor, please refrain. Or, at the very least, make prudent use of the filters on your social channels and keep things private.
Even though this lack of civility seems to be permeating newsfeeds daily, I reached my limit a few days ago when I saw a thoughtful post from a horse rescuer who works tirelessly to save a fraction of the thousands of horses that go to slaughter every month (yes, horse welfare is one of my causes).
The hateful, nasty comments on this particular post were literally horrifying to me. The infighting going on and the silly, immature behavior was very telling of everyone who posted their comments. Anyone who read them would make assumptions about those people.
In reading various posts and comments on social media, I often wonder, “Would they say that if they were here, in person, with a mic on, in a room with thousands of people?” because that’s the equivalent. Except on social media, it’s forever.
Has Civility Lost Its Way on Social Media?
Or is social media just a reflection of a much bigger issue? Have we lost our way as a culture, where civility towards our fellow sentient beings has diminished to the point of no return?
After observing this situation for awhile now, I realize that some of it is simply people reacting. But reactionary behavior makes it easy to lose control of one’s faculties and good judgment. Things can get so bad that the concept of “think before you post” doesn’t even enter into your consciousness.
Make no mistake, misdirected anger and social media do not mix well.
If You Care About Your Personal Brand, Listen Up
With every post, comment or like, we are renewing our personal brand. If you haven’t taken stock of your online interactions lately, now is a good time to start.
If your goal is to connect via social media with prospects, customers and potential business partners (and isn’t that most everyone?), then it’s important to know that social media is equal parts sales, marketing, PR, and data analysis. It takes deliberate strategies in each one of these in order to present yourself and your business’ brand.
Under the social media PR umbrella comes the practice of civility. Whether you’re a CEO or work for one, your personal brand tells onlookers everything they need to know about you.
Does Your Post or Comment Improve the Silence?
Many of us have worked hard to build our personal brand (and our business brand). One slip up and it could cost you everything. Trust is built over time and can be extinguished in seconds with one post or comment on social media.
Without awareness of the true consequences, which is actually the catalyst to being reactionary, you’ll find yourself with a smaller and smaller sphere of influence. Who likes to hear only themselves in the echo chamber?
Rocky Rawstern says
I try to fallback on an old standard: would I say it to my kindly great grandmother? I don’t always succeed, but I do make a conscious effort to remain civil. In many cases I simply ignore or opt-out.
What a well-written and enlightening post! People nowadays seem to think that it’s okay to say anything and everything, because they get to hide behind a computer screen or a phone – it’s crazy. If we could just learn to love and respect again, everything would be okay.