Social networking is a global phenomenon; hundreds of millions of people use social networking sites like Twitter and facebook everyday. I have a facebook account and I go on frequently to stay in touch with friends and family that I rarely get to see in person. As helpful as social networking can be, it’s important to remember that there are dangers in communicating with people on social networking sites and even email for that matter. An electronic conversation is very different from talking to someone face-to-face. All the information you would receive from a person's tone and body language is unavailable, opening the door for something you said to be misunderstood or taken out of context.
Very recently I learned this lesson the hard way. Keep reading to hear more about how a social networking experience I had went horribly wrong. With some help from the rest of the Priority Learning gang, I outlined some rules to live by to avoid having a similar incident.
Just like Dragnet, the names have been changed to protect the innocent.
I have a friend named John, who has not had an easy time in the working world. A mutual friend Sarah, who is not on facebook, was able to get John a job working in the same organization where she is a manager. Recently I was on facebook and I saw a status posted by John's mother-in-law, Sue, who was a friend on my facebook page. She was describing a negative experience John had at work and was making some serious accusations regarding John's boss. Knowing some of the back story, and thinking that Sarah might be the boss she was writing about, I thought that it was inappropriate to write such a thing on a networking site like facebook. As it turned out, other people joined in and the comments they were writing made this issue even worse. John, who was having difficulty with his boss, didn't feel the need to participate.
I decided to write that I didn't think it was a good idea to talk about John's boss on facebook given John’s employment history and the fact that this post could so easily get back to Sarah. Sue was not impressed with my comment. Apparently Sarah was not the "boss" she was speaking of and she commented back that it was ridiculous that I would imply that HER post to HER own page on facebook would ever affect John's employment. She also went on to say that I was a bad friend for not having sympathy for John's experience. It was a relief to know that Sue's post was not referring to Sarah and I did feel bad for John. However, I still felt that writing about any boss on facebook could only lead to trouble. I wrote back that I was sorry I had offended her, since I clearly had. I then wrote that my point was simply that when you write something on facebook, it becomes public knowledge. I also included a hypothetical situation that explained how if other mutual friends of John and Sarah see the negative postings, they could easily mention it to Sarah who could then mention it to John's boss.
The response I got back shocked me. Sue was even angrier and, worse, she didn't understand that the scenario I had written about was hypothetical and not something I planned to do. She replied that she was going to call Sarah herself and let her know what really happened, before I could give her my side of the story. I thought to myself, "What side of the story?" I didn't have a side of the story - my point was simply that you shouldn’t use facebook to complain about someone's boss. Now the very thing I was worried about happening was in fact going to happen because I made a few comments on facebook. Clearly the situation had gotten out of control. I decided not to respond since all it had done so far is make matters worse. A few of Sue's friends decided to back her up and chime in. In the end, my words were twisted and I ended up being referred to as "the crazy person who was trying to get John fired." Finally I got so fed up with my remarks being taken out of context that I removed Sue from my friends list.
At this point I wished I possessed a time machine so I could go back and tell myself not to bother commenting on Sue's status. I think most of you would agree that I had a good point; the problem is that it was completely lost on Sue and all it did was make her mad and exacerbate the situation. I honestly don't know what the end result was. As far as I know Sue never called Sarah and I'm sure the whole incident has died down and has largely been forgotten. I have to say that this whole fiasco has taught me some important lessons. Fortunately, Priority Learning helped me come up with some "Social Networking Rules To Live By".
Social Networking Rules To Live By:
Although social networking sites are clearly a positive new force in our lives, make sure to be mindful of what you write. If you think there is even a small chance that writing something might be taken another way, it probably will be and once you hit enter or click the "comment" button, you can't take it back!
I would love to hear your feedback. Please contact me at email@example.com
Milly Welsh is the Priority Learning webmaster and Owner/Operator of Zebralove Web Solutions, a web development company located in southern Maine.
Zebralove Web Solutions