Sunday, June 12, 2011

10 Ways to Avoid Social Media Self Mutilation

We all know how things happen in real life where you say or do something in haste when, thinking about things later, you realize you probably should have reacted differently.

I call it poking myself in the eye (figuratively, of course).

These things happen in social media as well – all the time. I'm no social media expert, in fact, I've pulled some pretty wicked groaners.

Some of my faux pas have been a result of male pattern grumpiness (which is hereditary as I understand) but most were totally avoidable. Whether I'm posting on Facebook, a discussion on LinkedIn, Tweeting or posting/contributing to blogs, I've found setting a few ground rules for myself has helped to keep me from embarrassing myself totally.

Here (in no particular order) are 10 checklist items that I've come up with for myself to help avoid the pitfalls of social media black eyes and I thought you might be interested (feel free to add to, or discuss). Note: these are based on common sense so probably aren't all that original. Perhaps they've been rattling around your brain too...

1) Kindness is as kindness does. Contrary opinions can help further an amiable conversation but are sometimes just a knee-jerk reaction. Knowing the difference helps. When things go south, stepping out of yourself to support others having a difficult time understanding is sometimes more powerful than a confrontation. Stepping out of the conversation entirely is sometimes best.

2) One wild Saturday night live can kill your Monday. We all like to enjoy our off-hours in different ways but posting references to these fun and often edgy activities can be accessed by professional contacts later looking for clues to your character. Nuff said.

3) Calling constantly at all hours can cause people to switch to unlisted numbers. Posting excessively can bother some and cause them to de-list you. A combination of moderation and meaningful substance is best. Wise quotes from others and links to articles are great occasionally but fifteen in a row in a three hour period can aggravate those who have to wade through them in their in-box.

4) Being a cat doesn't necessarily make you king of the jungle. There are a plethora of experts on the net. Some real and some not. It only takes most of us a few sentences to differentiate between someone who is a qualified resource and others who set themselves up as a self-styled expert. Don't be afraid to be yourself.

5) Don't hand out blank checks. If you don't like getting a mountain of emails dumped on you, try to stay away from giving out your online information, especially to sites that greet you with a pop up to sign up for free, even before you've seen its content. Once you give them your email address, you're basically stuck. And don't even bother trying to unsubscribe...

6) Play nice with other kids in the playground. The internet is truly an international, inclusive environment for people from all countries, cultures and ages. Discussion group responses that critique folks whose native language may not be English for their spelling and grammar or ridicule others for their inexperience can say more about the poster than the person being critiqued.

7) One loose wing nut can take the wheels off of a discussion. Many a discussion topic has been crashed by those who would a) post a comment only meant to push people off site to their own blog or website (i.e. spam), b) post personal opinions that have no real connection to the flow of discussion, or c) bending the discussion away from the original intent into areas of politics or religion. Be respectful and contribute logically. Please.

8) 'Funny' can be a two-edged rubber sword. The use of humor can be a great ice-breaker and provide a friendly approach to posting. But it can land in hostile lands. Folks do invest quite a bit of themselves into the seriousness of a discussion and humor may be seen as lacking respect or dismissive. Gauge your laughs with some sensitivity.

9) Even if you're a duck, limit the fowl language. Profanity may be acceptable in closed groups and the over-use of texting terms like LOL, WTF and ROFL may seem expeditious and trendy between friends but both can give folks who don't know you the wrong impression. Investing your time typing out your comments without swearing and excessive use of acronyms and emoticons (smiley faces) may mean reaching more people with the intelligent side of you.

10) Don't take this social media thing too seriously, or for too long. Life is to be enjoyed and a social media experience is one that can be rich with substance. If you like connecting with people in real life, you'll love the prospect of connecting with old and new friends, peers and associates from around the world online. But don't forget to set your limits. Life's too short.

Going out for a bike ride now...


  1. Be your own intelligent and empathetic self. Great advice, Rand.

    You're right, your list has been knocking around in my brain, but you're the one who has the knack with word images to bring it all together.

    Thanks for putting this together.

  2. Very welcome Lynn Marie. Maybe we've been reading each other's minds!

  3. Excellent. Great advice and so respectfully worded :-)

  4. Thanks Karin, I'm saving bad advice, rudely worded for my retirement years... :o)