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Archive for the ‘Social Media’ Category

People Still Lie In the Age of Transparency

Posted by southwrite on July 15, 2014

Man in HatThere’s very little about our lives that is secret anymore – or is likely to be secret for long.

Facebook keeps track of your typed posts even if you decide to delete them. Google knows everywhere you’ve been on the web.  And everything they know the NSA knows as well – and a lot more. And, of course, big business owns your personal data and probably knows more about you than your spouse.

All of this over exposure was supposed to make us a lot more transparent. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s now creepy statementPeople have really gotten comfortable not only sharing more information and different kinds, but more openly and with more people. That social norm is just something that has evolved over time. We view it as our role in the system to constantly be innovating and be updating what our system is to reflect what the current social norms are.

So if we now live in an overexposed world in which its pretty easy to find out lots of things about lots of people, why tell lies that can be easily found out? Why tell your new date that you’re a company CEO when a Google search will reveal that you’ve just gotten out of prison.

Decide it would fun to take your top off in a bar and a score of cell phone cameras will send images of your bare breasts across the web. Forget about keeping that Miss America crown.

These days it’s easy for a company to search public records and Facebook accounts to ferret out the truth and lies hidden in resume and job applications. There’s a long list of coaches, CEOs and assorted academics who have lost their jobs because they claimed degrees they never bothered to earn.

In fact, the only reason the dark secrets of your past stay out of sight is when others don’t even try to find them.

With so much information so accessible to so many people why does anyone think they can get away with anything?

Of course we all lie at one time or another. Usually it’s to avoid conflict with someone or fudge the truth so that our behavior looks a little better. Sometimes we simply convince ourselves that events transpired a certain way when they really didn’t. Police and prosecutors are well aware that witness memories can be notoriously unreliable.

We tell small lies designed to keep us out of trouble and avoid conflict. We fudge the truth about our accomplishments to impress someone and even if we know what we’re doing in the beginning soon we accept the lie as whole truth.

But how do you explain some of the more outrageous lies that have been part of the public consciousness in recent times. Why does a public figure tell a personal story – such as decorated military service – that can be easily proven false by the public record?

Consider the story of the story of little 3-year-old Victoria Wilcher, disfigured by a pitbull, getting kicked out of a Jackson, Miss. KFC. The girl’s grandparents said that a manager at the fast food restaurant told them to leave because the girl’s scarred face was “disrupting our customers.” The accusation quickly went viral and the fast food chain quickly apologized and pledged $30,000 to the girl’s family for her care. Almost as quickly a local newspaper debunked the story. It not only didn’t happen, it appears that the family had not been in the KFC on that day.

Why did the family believe they could get away it? Didn’t they think someone would check a little further? Or did they believe the public is gullible when it comes to false stories that seem to fit with their deeply held beliefs – in this case businesses are run by heartless people.

The morale is that we need to be skeptical of stories – particularly when they sound too good to be true or fit too neatly into our own beliefs and biases.

 

 

 

Posted in Culture, Life, Social Media, The Media | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Is it Time to Flee Facebook?

Posted by southwrite on July 10, 2014

computer screenHave you ever asked yourself – what am I doing on Facebook? Many people have and maybe you should as well.

Perusing your friend’s Facebook page you may have come across things that caused you to stop and think, “I don’t know if I would have posted that!” Like those camera phone photos of your buddy drunk, unconscious and a funny picture painted on his face or that near topless shot of your friend’s daughter. Then there are the arguments in which perfectly normal people are suddenly transformed into irrational screaming maniacs.

Then there are the constant changes in Facebook policies and page layouts that seem to drive people crazy. Not to mention revelations that Facebook is manipulating not just your news feed, but your emotions as well. People got pretty upset about that last one  and the company reacted as it usually does – with a yawn.  Add to that news they also keep track of the words that you type and then don’t post. [Think about that.]

A great deal of ink (both real and virtual) has been spilled bemoaning how social media is souring real friendships, wasting time, and even getting people fired.

Some are telling us there’s even an exodus of folks fleeing the site out of boredom or horror. More than 11 million younger users have dumped the site for other social media. Of course, hipsters left the site (mostly for Twitter) long ago when they discovered it had become the providence of older adults and famous quotes. Journalist Ruth Graham tweets “Facebook is the inspiration superhighway.” That doesn’t exactly signal the end of the company considering it has 1.3 billion monthly active users, but clearly more people are thinking about it.

None of this is surprising. Facebook has morphed from a user community into a for profit corporation. It’s primary goal is no longer to serve its users, but to make enough money to please Wall Street and justify its $140 billion valuation. So there will be a lot more “studies” in which you are made the unwitting lab rat of the latest experiment in making the site more “sticky.”

Most of us don’t see Facebook as a business, but rather as the community in which we interact with friends [both real and virtual]. While it’s not the same as everyday live we might be better off if we acted as if it were. Then we probably wouldn’t be saying and posting some of the things that get us into trouble.

FB_FindUsOnFacebook-1024Behind the shield of an internet connection many say things to people that they’d think twice about before uttering in person. Words can be hurtful, both to the feeling of your friends and to your economic wellbeing if intemperate comments are directed at an employer. While you may be able to plausibly deny an off hand comment made over the water cooler, Facebook posts live on forever.

It might be wise to give some consideration to what you type and what you actually post . Think of yourself like a company and consider the “brand” you want to put forth for your public to see.

That means don’t create situations that you’re likely to regret. I’m not saying everyone should be frightened into silence. No, far from it. Just think about whether you’re saying something that you want to stand up for down the road. A well reasoned defense of some political issue can say you’re a thinker. A video of you drunk and unconscious will make you look like you don’t think at all.

In short, we need to accept Facebook for what it is rather than what we’d like it to be. Just as actions have consequences in real life, they can also have them in the not so real world of social media.

 

 

Posted in Life, Social Media | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

When too Much Really is too Much

Posted by southwrite on July 1, 2014

Alice in WonderlandI was talking to a friend recently about an acquaintance and the topic of openness. The person in question tended  to be a bit too explicitly personal in her Twitter postings. Although neither of us were close to this person – it was after all a social “media” acquaintance – we had gotten a pretty intimate view of certain aspects of her life. My friend was concerned that the young lady’s twittering might prove detrimental to her career – what if her employer saw it?

That got me to thinking when is too much too much?  These days the cliché “too much information!” comes to mind on a nearly hourly basis.

Obviously, reality TV and the extreme people who succeed on such shows have made keeping anything private – no matter how embarrassing – seem so, well, 20th Century. In fact, the more extravagant the misdeed the more likely it is to make you a star or an in demand book author (good news for ghost writers).

In fact, campaigning for a spot on a reality show is something you plan your life around. If it isn’t already, reality show contestant should be a job category – and one with true growth potential.

It wasn’t always like that. Once revealing too much was a much more local affair. There was the ameatur bodybuilder who told me about her use of steroids. There was the guy who couldn’t stop talking about his many, many, many feminine conquests. Relatively few ordinary people thought about leveraging their mistakes into media attention and that was a good thing.

Unless you’re aspiring to join the Real Housewives, looking bad may not be so good. Everyone should know by now that what you do online is never private no matter what your privacy settings may be. Social media of every kind has given us all the means to project our talents, opinions and foibles far and wide. Where once our bad taste might have been limited to a few friends, family and co-workers, we can now build a sizable platform from which to expose ourselves.

This ability can outpace your better judgment. Some people have discovered that employers troll social media sites looking for background data on job applicants. Facebook posts and funny pictures can solidify opinions long before you ever show up in your best business suit.

Just as businesses are careful about the image they project to the public, freelancers need to be conscious of what they’re saying to their customers as well. If provocative statements are part of your image then by all means keep writing those attention grabbing Twitter posts. If they aren’t something you want clients to read then don’t. And, save your misdeeds, tall tales, and bad taste for the home office. The dog won’t care and won’t tell.

Posted in Culture, Social Media | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Don’t Believe Everything You Read – Even if it’s True

Posted by southwrite on June 25, 2014

1319095_90422633You know you’re not supposed to believe everything you read – whether in newspapers, books and especially on the Web. Yet, most people – including those who give you advice like this – often do.

You probably heard the story of three-year-old Victoria Wilcher, who was thrown out of a KFC restaurant in Jackson, Miss. after an employee decided that her scars—leftover from an attack by her grandfather’s pit bulls—were scaring customers. That angered a lot of people and you could hear the explosion on social media. And, rightly so. It was so bad in fact that KFC immediately apologized for its franchisee’s behavior and ponied up $30,000 for the child’s medical bills as a way of saying we’re sorry for this outrage.

As you also now know, it was all a media savvy hoax cooked up the grandfather and his girlfriend to boost thier  own fund raising campaign for the girl’s medical bills. This nationally reported story was uncovered not by the national media – which like KFC bought it completely – but by a local newspaper – The Laurel Leader-Call. It did the fact checking and basic reporting while everybody else was running with a tale that was too good to pass up.

I mention this incident not because it’s unusual, but because it’s so commonplace. There have always been hoaxes and frauds and misinformation. What’s different today is how fast these stories travel and how they can impact people and even corporations. KFC acted fast to contain what initially looked like a social media-fueled PR disaster. No doubt their publicity experts understood that it didn’t really matter whether it was true or not – everyone was going to believe it.

This particular story was corrected pretty quickly, but there are countless others that never get corrected. Tune into the cable news shows on any particular night and you will be treated to a veritable smörgåsbord of half-truths, misinterpretations and outright lies. Most of these tales are never corrected and even if they are most viewers continue to believe them. [A small, but stubborn percentage of the American population still believes that President Obama is a Muslim born outside the U.S. even after release of the birth certificate and considerable investigation and evidence to the contrary.]  Some of this is politically motivated lying, some is willful ignorance and the rest is…well…ignorance.

With many stories it can be hard to know the real truth – even if you’re not in the low information voter category. Consider the recent New York Times story about how the student debt crisis really isn’t a crisis at all.  It offers a Brookings Institution study that only seven percent of young adults with student debt owe $50,000 or more. In a classic case of making numbers mean whatever you want them to mean, it turns out this story too is not exactly what it seems.

Screen-Shot-2014-06-24-at-9_21_22-AM-e1403616118133The seven percent figure is correct for the skewed selection of households surveyed. You have to read the caveat closely to get that fact however. It is in fact “based on households with people between 20 to 40 years old with at least some education debt.” Gawker’s Choire Sicha explains it this way:

Those aren’t households with people between 20 and 40; those are households headed by people between 20 and 40. Which is to say, this data excludes all people living in households headed by, say, their parents, or other adults. The way Brookings put this is: “households led by adults between the ages of 20 and 40.” Just another way to say it excludes all households led by anyone over 40! (Those households might be identical in student debt to “young” households! Or they might not? WHO KNOWS!)

I suspect most readers of the story walked away thinking the student debt was no big deal. Yes, even the well-respected New York Times gets its wrong. [If you doubt it just repeat to yourself Judith Miller.]

Both of these examples – and there are many, many more – point to a need for a healthy dose of skepticism of many of the stories you come across every day. It’s good to check multiple sources, but sometimes it can seem that everyone is wrong as with the KFC story. Then you have to ask yourself just how plausible the story really is and extend that skepticism even to those stories that reinforce your own preconceived beliefs. Make that especially then.

Posted in Culture, Social Media, The Media, Writing | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

The Only Good Words are Harsh Words

Posted by southwrite on June 24, 2014

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

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

There have been a lot of words – some of them quite extreme – about how rude and uncivil we’ve all become – particularly in our online lives. If you feel like being abused and attacked, then social media is the place to go.

Apparently, most people agree. An annual study by global public relations firm Weber Shandwick found “70 percent of Americans believe incivility has reached crisis proportions.” Quite a few people even think it’s leading to violence as people react to those “fighting words.”

Of course, much of those “fighting words” can be found on the internet, in blogs, Twitter, Facebook and just about everywhere else on the Internet. It’s probably not a surprise that the language and the ideas expressed are extreme – and often highly personal. Dip into the comment section of your local newspaper’s website and you’ll find a virtual cesspool of racist and xenophobic comments, name calling, general stupidity and a lot of poor spelling. Recently, some newspapers have tried to enforce civility with real human monitors or by requiring that people use their real names or sign in with Facebook.

Others, like National Journal have ended comments completely saying they have better things to do – like actual journalism – than policing feuding and name-calling. “For every smart argument, there’s a round of ad hominem attacks—not just fierce partisan feuding, but the worst kind of abusive, racist, and sexist name-calling imaginable,” wrote editor in chief Tim Grieve.

Extreme language isn’t limited just to the benighted readers of online sites. The writers, bloggers and journalists can sometimes be just as bad. A common piece of advice I’ve gotten is that to be an effective blogger, you need sharp opinions. Realizing you don’t have all the answers and seeing both sides of the issue may be realistic, but it won’t get readers. The more sound and fury, the better.

One of the reasons the name calling goes on is that using extreme language attracts readers.

To gain attention, the words you use need to be sharper. It’s not about being clear and concise and presenting fresh ideas, but about giving your readers more of what they already happen to be thinking.

It’s not enough to simply argue a point of view on its merits, but invariability you have to attack your opponents personally. They don’t just disagree with you, they’re evil and stupid. If your favorite political blogger hasn’t compared the other side to Hitler and the Nazi, just wait.

That helps explain why there are so many highly partisan bloggers with large and devoted followings. It’ can be disconcerting sometimes, but we don’t really want to hear anything that challenges our view of ourselves and the world. Fox News viewers don’t switch channels to see how MSNBC commentators are contradicting their conservative favorites. They watch more Fox News. It’s not all that different on the left.

And, it’s not just politics. Many so called religious bloggers, whether Christian or otherwise can get just as vile as any political partisan.

So this is what we have come to in our internet and social media lives. It’s a world that sometimes seems in an arms race of words. The more powerful and explosive they are the better. Words don’t usually end up killing people or maiming innocent bystanders, but they can still hurt. Words can be used to dehumanize. They can destroy a reputation or damage the psyche of the venerable. The more sharp words flying around, the more people tend to avoid getting involved.

And, that can be harmful to us all.

Posted in Life, Social Media, The Media, Writing | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Pardon my Distration

Posted by southwrite on June 7, 2014

Woman holding clock ice

I’m sitting in church on a Sunday morning. Up at the front of the auditorium, Rev. Alan is talking about what a strange sight it is to see people sitting together and starting intently at their phones – not talking to each other. Social media is making us all very unsociable, he implies. As I listen it takes an effort not to pull out my own phone. Maybe I should have checked-in on Facebook. Are there emails I should read? You never know when you’re going to get an important message form a client – early on a Sunday morning.

I’m not the only one who can’t focus on what is in front of me. I got up early and drove through city traffic to get here as I do just about Sunday because I think it’s important. Once I’m in my seat my focus can easily shift to something else. I think about the assignment I could be working on or the trip out of town that’s coming up later in the week.  I’m distracted.

One large workplace study found that 66 percent of workers can’t focus on one thing at a time. About 70 percent don’t have regular time for creative or strategic thinking while at work. This distraction is causing them to feel disconnected dissatisfied with their worklife even as they devote more and more hours to it.

We all seem to be trying to do too much at once. A couple of decades ago the multi-tasking trend popped up. To be more efficient we were all supposed to do more than one thing at time. A lot of people tried that and the results were obvious – multi-tasking made you less efficient and the results poorer than if you focused on one thing at a time.

Despite all the research bashing most people still seem to believe they should be ably juggling several jobs simultaneously. Maybe it’s because they have too much to do or because no one thing is sufficiently worthy of their time. When I look at my phone don’t really hear the sermon, but I also don’t give the email my full attention either. So the more distracted I am the more distracted I become.

Just like the office workers cited above, I find my distraction slipping over into work. Once again I’m checking and answering emails while on the phone doing interviews. It’s rare that any of these tasks are vital. My energy would be better spent listening to the experts who are sharing their time and expertise with me.

But I can’t stop. Even as I write this post, I’m stopping to look at the layout of an employee newsletter just arrived from the designer while checking notes for another call I’ll be doing in a half hour.

One of the reasons we’re distracted is that we have so much information coming at us all the time. Whether we’re sitting in front of a laptop or an iPhone, we have nearly limitless access to everything that’s on the web. We can read any article, see any video and check in with just about anybody who’s out there. With so much to choose from it’s hard to narrow it down. We’re afraid that we’ll miss out if we don’t immerse ourselves in everything.

No wonder we’re unhappy.

So what can we do? We need to learn again how to focus. The few who are able to do so are more likely to be better at what they do. They get superior results and – not surprisingly they also tend to be happier than the distracted many.

One way to get back to focus is to start small. Try setting a timer (your smartphone has one of course) for a specific period of time – say 20 minutes, but not more than 30. Then commit to working on one thing without distraction. If you need to write, write without editing or second guess yourself. And don’t stop until the timer goes off. Then reward yourself with a distraction – or a cookie.

I use this process and found it makes me much more productive. By giving myself permission to focus for a short period of time, I get much ore done than I would otherwise. So, give it a try and see how it works for you.

The timer method doesn’t have to be just for work. You can set aside a short period of time to do anything without distraction – talking to your partner or playing with your kids are all worthy your undivided attention. You can probably find others.

And, who knows. You may like those undistracted periods so much that they begin become the nrom.

Posted in Culture, Social Media, Working | Tagged: , , | 6 Comments »

Once It Starts, It’s Not Going to Stop

Posted by southwrite on May 27, 2014

Screen-Shot-2014-05-26-at-6_57_16-AM

The incidents and circumstances that prompt big, important national conversations can often seem jarringly inappropriate.

 

After Elliot Rodger went on a shooting rampage in California in “retribution” against women who’d rejected him, came an outpouring of pent up anger from women. It came from those who have endured the slights and the abuse of male privilege. Driven on social media by the hashtag #YesAllWomen, it quickly became about all the times that women felt threatened by men, weren’t believed when they said they were raped or had to endure sexual harassment in silence in order to keep a job or get along in a relationship. Here’s a good explanation of what it’s all about from from writer Amanda Magee.

 

Men who feel threatened by an impassioned debate over patriarchy and male privilege are quick to point out that Rodger was a lonely, isolated and probably mentally ill little man.

 

And, he killed men too.

 

It’s like the debates over gun control that flare up after each mass shooting. Second Amendment absolutists like to point out that these laws and regulations probably wouldn’t have prevented the horrible school shooting. Yes, that’s probably true because while gun deaths are common, mass shootings are rare and unpredictable.

 

The catalyst for debate becomes a way of ending the conversation through distraction.

 

Another stopper is the demand — and not just from social media trolls – that women first declare that “all men are not like that.” That’s true, but the day is long past when we need to first protect our fragile egos through acknowledgement of what is obvious. To borrow a sexist phrase, men need to man-up and realize that this too is part of the problem.

 

It would be wonderful if the incidents that generate our most thoughtful and powerful debates – the kind that can alter the way we think and live – all flowed from perfect and easily recognized incidents. But they don’t and they never will.

 

If we want change, we have to take it where we can find it.

Posted in Culture, Social Media, The Media | Leave a Comment »

When is a “Planned Mistake” Just a Mistake?

Posted by southwrite on May 27, 2014

Image by flickr user http://www.flickr.com/photos/spiritmama/. Used under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic.

Image by flickr user http://www.flickr.com/photos/spiritmama/. Used under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic.

Writers more than anyone know that not everything in the media is what it appears to be. That’s particularly true when it comes to businesses seeking attention for their products. These days an increasing number of big companies are devoting vast resources to producing pranks and publicity stunts designed to circumvent traditional advertising.  Called “prank-vertising,” or publicity stunts, these “planned mistakes” can sometimes turn out to be mistakes in themselves.

As one advertising executive said to me: “Companies don’t control their own brands. Brands are controlled by consumers because the control is an emotional one. It’s a psychic one. It’s the attitude that people have toward a brand and those things are defined by the consumer. They’re not defined by the corporation. That’s especially true in a social media era.”

Prank-vertising can help companies distinguish their brands, or not

Randy Southerland, Contributing Writer

It’s called “prank-vertising” or even “planned mistakes” — to distinguish them from all the unplanned ones.

Whatever ad folks call them, they’re the unpredictable stunts that companies use to gain attention and buzz in a crowded and often incoherent social media driven world.

JCPenney won attention during this year’s Super Bowl with its “drunk tweets.”

When the brand unleased a flurry of nearly incoherent messages, many quickly took note. After thousands of retweets — including some from large companies running Super Bowl ads — the company revealed the “mistakes” were result of trying to type on a phone’s tiny keyboard while “wearing mittens.”

“I do think there has been a renewed trend [of doing stunts] for quite a bit,” said Ashley Grice, managing director at Iris Atlanta. “At least since the beginning of 2013, there has been a fairly consistent number of firms employing nontraditional ruses in this manner to garner attention for brands and products. Some of them are pretty wild rides and some are more tame, but it seems to be consistently out there.”

When stunts work, they can seem brilliant.

Remember Ellen DeGeneres’ Oscar selfie? The self-taken picture of the actress posing with a bunch of other celebrities seemed spontaneous and well suited to the event.

The public soon learned that it was carefully planned and executed as part of an agreement with smartphone maker Samsung to promote its Galaxy handset during the event.

The company seems to have gotten its money’s worth. The tweet was seen by 37 million people worldwide, according to Twitter numbers. In contrast, 43 million viewers tuned in to the actual broadcast.

Ad experts agree that the stunt or prank is nothing new. It’s been going on in one form or another since well before the “Mad Men” era.

While the tools and media channels are different, the reasons for pranking are the same as ever. Some of the best pranks latch onto an event or situation that has already attracted a lot of attention.

“These companies want to take advantage of an event where there is already a lot of buzz and media attention,” said Mitch Leff, president of Leff & Associates.

Sporting events such as the Super Bowl, Final Four or Olympics and media spectacles like the Oscars are natural platforms for staging pranks. There is already attention focused on the event and if a company can provide a narrative or event that is relevant and attention-grabbing it can garner some real buzz, Leff said.

Companies decide to channel their advertising dollars into pranks for a variety of reasons. JCPenney spent far less sending out its “drunk tweets” than the companies that were actually buying advertising on the Super Bowl broadcast.

“It is a reflection to some degree of the very crowded messaging marketplace that exists,” said Rob Baskin, senior communications counselor and agency managing director at Weber Shandwick’s Atlanta office. “Companies and brands have to work very hard through a variety of different platforms and channels to try to reach their audiences.”

The key is to separate the brand from others in the public mind, but that requires creating a solid identity in the first place, Baskin said.

“In order to achieve a breakthrough and to get through the clutter of all those messages out there, nontraditional ways can be particularly effective — especially if they’re coming from a more conservative company that is showing a different side of itself,” Grice said. “If it’s something that is unexpected coming from a company people will stop and take notice of that.”

Iris Atlanta staged a prank to promote The Weather Channel’s new Android smartphone app.

A bus stop shelter was outfitted with hidden sprinklers that doused bystanders (all of whom were actors) in a surprise downpour. The only person to escape the drenching was the actor who checked the app and hurriedly opened his Weather Channel umbrella.

“The idea was surprising consumers while underlining how important accuracy is in [predicting] the weather,” Grice said. “It got a lot of attention and views for that particular accuracy app, which was important to them.”

A successful stunt must capture the imagination of the audience while also enhancing the brand.

“The issue is not so much the stunt or the event as whether or not it is relevant to the audiences,” Baskin said. “The Ellen [selfie] during the Oscars clearly had a degree of relevance. People take selfies all the time and anyone who watches the Oscars is into celebrity culture.”

While the most successful pranks get a lot of attention, many advertising stunts are no more effective in enhancing a brand than more conventional advertising. It’s unclear whether JCPenney’s “drunk tweets” had any lasting value for the company.

“I think it was ill-advised,” said David Fitzgerald, president of Fitzgerald+CO. “Yes, it got people talking, but at the end of the day how do you feel about the brand?”

While a social media-based stunt can reach a wide audience and enhance a brand’s image, it can also do a lot of damage when it goes wrong.

That happened when the New York Police Department launched its #MYNYPD Twitter hashtag.

The idea was to share tweets and photos of police officers doing good around New York City. For an already controversial government agency, it proved a gift for critics.

“People started using the hashtag and posting all these pictures of police brutality and these negative images of police officers and it went entirely the other way,” Leff said. “People picked it up in other cities. What was supposed to be a nice way for the New York Police to show how well-loved they are by people in New York went entirely negative.”

This story originally appeared in the May 23 edition of The Atlanta Business Chronicle

http://www.bizjournals.com/atlanta/print-edition/2014/05/23/planned-mistakes.html?s=print

Posted in Social Media, The Media, Writing | Leave a Comment »

When too much really is too much

Posted by southwrite on December 5, 2009

Image by Index Photograph. Used under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

I was talking to a writer friend recently about a freelancer of our acquaintance and the topic of openness. The person in question tended – shall I say – to be a bit too explicitly personal in her Twitter postings. Although neither of us had ever met her in person – it was after all a social “media” acquaintance – we had gotten a pretty intimate view of certain aspects of her life.

That got me to thinking when is too much too much?  These days the cliché “too much information!” comes to mind on a nearly daily basis.

My friend was concerned that the young lady’s twittering might prove detrimental to her career – she was a freelancer after all. Who knows how many clients were reading these posts and being turned off without giving her chance.

Obviously, reality TV and the likes of Jerry Springer have made keeping anything private – no matter how embarrassing – seem so, well, 19th Century Victorian. In fact, the more extravagant the misdeed the better and the more likely it could make you a star or an in demand book author (good news for ghost writers). 

In fact, campaigning for a spot on a reality show is something you plan your life around. If you’re the parents of a balloon boy or crashed a White House dinner – all the better for your chances. If it isn’t already, reality show contestant should be a job category – and one with true growth potential.

It wasn’t always like that. We former office workers remember the days when revealing too much was a much more local affair. There was the young lady with ample cleavage on display or the guy who couldn’t stop talking about his many, many, many feminine conquests. Relatively few ordinary people thought about leveraging their mistakes into media attention and that was a good thing.

Unless you’re aspiring to join the Real Housewives of New Jersey, looking bad may not be so good. Social media of every kind has given us all the means to project our talents, opinions and foibles far and wide. Where once our bad taste might have been limited to a few friends, family and co-workers we can now build a sizable platform from which to expose ourselves.

This ability can outpace your better judgment. Some people have discovered that employers troll social media sites looking for background data on job applicants. Facebook posts and funny pictures can solidify opinions long before you ever show up in your best business suit.

Just as businesses are careful about the image they project to the public, freelancers need to be conscious of what they’re saying to their customers as well. If provocative statements are part of your image then by all means keep writing those attention grabbing Twitter posts. If they aren’t something you want clients to read then don’t. And, save your misdeeds, tall tales, and bad taste for the home office. The dog won’t care and the public will never know.

Posted in Social Media | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

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.

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