Telling stories

Too Many People Are Doin’ That Social Media Rant

Posted by southwrite on October 26, 2009


Image by Flickr user smileham. Creative Commons Noncommercial 2.0 Generic.

Image by Flickr user smileham. Creative Commons Noncommercial 2.0 Generic.

It’s hard not to be taken aback when you come upon somebody yelling at another person. You feel kind of embarrassed for the recipient of the tirade and maybe you wonder what could have produced the vitriol.

That these scenes are increasingly taking place virtually on social media sites such as LinkedIn doesn’t make them any less pleasant to watch.  As one of the biggest networking sites for professionals it has about 48 million members. Many form and join groups devoted to their professions or interests where they can start discussions, posts news and hopefully meet like-minded professionals.

This time a  member took exception to a link that another had posted and launched a lengthy and sometimes insulting rant. It seems that the article at the end of the link didn’t deliver all that the author had promised and links within the story weren’t working. Although these might be  legitimate criticisms, he didn’t stop there. He kept going for a number of paragraphs questioning both the intelligence and ethics of the poster.

It’s not the first time supposed colleagues have unloaded on each other. And, it was  milder than many I’ve witnessed.

Bashing another professional – in public and on the Web – is a good example of the inappropriate uses of social media. A lot has been written lately about how posting  compromising  pictures on Facebook or talking about your sex life on Twitter can hurt you professionally. And, we all know that firing off an intemperate e-mail to the boss is not a good idea.

Now add rants against your colleagues to that list.

I’m not here to suggest that we should all just get along and play nice. That’s not the way a lot of people operate in our society.  These days bad manners are the norm for a great many people. Check the comments section of most any news related website and you’ll find an abundance of extreme hate-filled speech – usually expressed in a semi-literate fashion. Cable talk show hosts seem to think they can say anything on air no matter how wild or false. There’s road rage and parents who can’t stop yelling at their kids.  A lot of people need better anger management skills and a clearer conception of what is and isn’t appropriate.

Social media provides those who enjoy channeling their inner Howard Beal with a way of reaching more people than ever before. Behind the shield of the Internet they can say pretty much anything they want without fear of a punch in the mouth. A couple of years ago the online forums of a national writers organization was plagued by a tiny group that was at the center of an ongoing flame war. One would launch an attack against another member, the target would react,  and the others would quickly join in. While occasionally entertaining to watch, it created a poisonous atmosphere that discouraged less combative members from posting and even seemed to prompt a few people to quit. Eventually, the ring leader was suspended for other misconduct and after a lot of huffing and puffing the rest of the gang faded away.

These folks are what  they are. The rest of us should be more concerned about the image we express to the world – and potential clients and employers.

The LinkedIn ranter probably just created some ill will with a fellow freelancer he doesn’t know. Yet, posting your less than ideal side on the Web can reach far beyond those directly involved. The words and images we place in cyberspace often don’t just go away. They linger on and a potential client or employer reading those heated words might decide to pass on your services – why take the risk?

We all have a bad day or several of them every now and then. Sometimes people do post  inane or uninformed opinions on social media. Verbally abusing someone on the other side of the country might seem like an easy way to let off steam. (It’s better than kicking the dog or your spouse I guess.) On the other hand, you don’t really know what the consequences might be. At the very least you won’t look very professional and you’ll probably have at least one more enemy.

Thank about that for a while and after you compose that next rant click delete instead of send.

2 Responses to “Too Many People Are Doin’ That Social Media Rant”

  1. Thanks for this timely post. It’s full of great advice. I’m constantly amazed by the content I see on social media sites. It’s as if people forget they aren’t in a room having a private conversation with someone.

    I read a sports blog and two people who post on the site began a romance. They flirted with each other on the blog. When another poster complained and suggested they start emailing each other, the couple told the poster to stay out of their “private converstaion.” All I could do was laugh at this comment, but it’s indicative that people forget it’s not private at all.

    • southwrite said

      You can caulk up carrying on private behavior in a public setting as yet another example of bad behavior in social media. It reminds me of the teenagers you see making out in traffic or in the row in front of you at concert. They’re oblivious to the fact that they’re encroaching upon everyone else’s space by their actions. The couple you mentioned also reminds me of a story I read a while back about teenage girls who posted their diaries on-line and then were shocked that their parents read them.

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