Social Media Sense and Sensibility

Courtesy of The Keep Calm-O-Matic

"Aaargh! I really hate that stupid nincompoop! Let me just post a truly nasty update on Facebook revealing how silly he is..."

Now wait a minute there. Before you go on your online rampage, take a chill pill.

Contrary to popular belief, social media isn't your own playground. Whatever you say, do, write or comment on most social networks - Twitter, Facebook, Google+, or LinkedIn - will be recorded. What's more, lawyers these days are clever enough to hire social sleuths to uncover whatever grime you've dished out to be used against you.

Like elephants, Google never forgets, especially with its infamous caching function. While you may imagine that you're surrounded by friends and family members, the truth is that you never really know who's tracking your online behaviours.

This brings me to a recent example highlighted by UnMarketing's Scott Stratten. A rather uninhibited professor at NYU tweeted the following:

Noticed how the good prof used the #truth hashtag in this post. Upon realising his mistake later on (duh), he issued a half-hearted apology tweet that read like so:

As you can see, this wasn't well received and got him a huge amount of flack online. He then made a more "sincere" sounding apology which went like this:

By this time, he has dug the grave so deeply that it was probably difficult to unearth himself. So he did the next best thing which is to go private:

While the above case illustrate how indiscrete remarks can be costly on Twitter, the same applies to Facebook, Google+, and other social networks. Yes, the social web is still the Internet, and it can be a scary place if you don't play by its rules.

Are there ways for us to minimise committing "foot-in-mouth" syndrome?

Here are some thoughts to begin with:

1) Social media is NOT a punching bag. If you feel angry, frustrated, or upset about something, leave the room, go into the toilet, and scream. Do a hundred push ups. Stuff your face with chips/sliced apple/whatever. Just don't react with an irate post that you will regret later.

2) Learn to ZEN OUT. It isn't worth it to get your blood pressure up over a couple of trolls who are probably just doing it with a straight face anyway. Breath deeply, breathe out slowly and stay cool.

3) Take it OFFLINE. If you really need to resolve an issue with another party, meet him or her face to face. If you can't meet, use the phone. Voice is far softer and more forgiving than text.

4) Use a COMPLETELY UNRELATED reference if you truly need to let off steam through your fingertips. Create a mythical story with "characters that are unrelated to any persons living or dead. Any resemblances are purely coincidental".

5) Think 10 to 20 years ahead. What would your children or grandchildren say? "Oh daddy, you're such a ninny!" Prevent that by creating enlightening and enriching (rather than destructive) content.

6) If you still ended up writing something silly, say SORRY and TRULY MEAN IT. Don't give a half-cooked apology.

7) Finally, remember that whatever you say about yourself, people WILL ASSOCIATE you with your organisation/church/family unit/society. We may not be wearing our official badges at all times, but people will still know who you are by what you do.

A few last words.

We're all humans and are prone to making mistakes. Despite the precautions that we take, we may still end up publishing something that we may regret later on. Should the situation ever occur (touch wood!), we should make it a point to eat humble pie, apologise, and show the digital (and real) world that we learned from our mistake.

What's better, however, is to take away every mean spirited streak from our body. Learn the art of meditation and dispel that negative energy. Doing so would ultimately help us to live happy and balanced lives.

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