The Social Media Minefield – Throw Away The Rulebook

Lately I’ve been thinking about my love/hate relationship with rules. And ‘love/hate’ might not be the best turn of phrase for how I feel about them. More like ‘follower/who cares’er’.

The follower part is simple. I was raised to be a contributing member of society. To work hard and earn my own way. And to respect my elders/authority figures. I’ve never scammed the government. I don’t damage other people’s property. And I would never – ever – take something that wasn’t mine. Not a lie, to this *day* I’ve never been pulled over by the cops. If I was? I think I would wet myself. Don’t even ask me how stressed I get when traveling and crossing borders. And when I get stressed I use humour. At the most inopportune moments. Like when I told the TSA people at Boston Logan that had I known I would be passing through a full body scanner, I would have gone on a diet. Heh. Hindenburg.

We all get that there’s an essential place for certain rules in our everyday society. If not we would all be living a la Lord of The Flies in our respective neighbourhoods. There are just things you *don’t do*, out of respect and consideration for the people around you. But some rules….

Meh, Who Cares

The ‘who cares’er’ part of me is more….personal. We don’t follow the clock about what time dinner is. We often hunker down in front of the TV and eat (I know, *big* no no, right?). My house – which is often a mess – wasn’t decked out with myriad baby protection devices when my boy was little. He survived relatively unscathed. We didn’t ‘do’ Halloween this year. I don’t ‘act my age’, whatever that means, and I rarely censor myself. But I’m no idiot either (see above re: respect for authority). All the hard work and sacrifice that has me where – and who – I am today didn’t come without a steep learning curve.

The Social Media Minefield 

Social media is awash with rules and tips and steps and guidelines. And I get that from a business perspective one needs a rule book, a way to empower employees, protect your brand and make sure that everyone is on the same page. But individually? Personally? All of these rules and guidelines are scaring Joe Public away. Take Twitter for example. I speak to people *every single day* who are terrified of Twitter. They tell me they have nothing to say. That they don’t get it. That they will screw up somehow if they’re on it. These conversations drive me crazier than a fruit bat. Because it’s not TRUE.

Live In Social Media The Way You Live In Life!

Life is messy. People fail, epically at times. But usually we learn from these missteps and mistakes. So, whether you’re too scared to try or just starting out, stop worrying about a rule book and consider these simple tips:

Don’t Be A Tool: Use your common sense. Treat people online the same way you would treat them face to face. Don’t think that because you are sitting behind a keyboard and pressing send instead of looking someone straight in the eyes that your words don’t have the power to hurt. Read this article by Erika Napoletano (better known as @Redheadwriting) one of the most supremely hardcore online woman I know, if you don’t believe me.

Be Yourself: Social media is about voice and personality. When you fake it, it shows. One of the best compliments I received recently was from Martin Waxman, Principal at Martin Waxman Communications and Senior Counselor at Thornley Fallis Communications, who said my offline voice and online voice were identical (thanks again Martin!). Why was that so important to me? Because when I finally meet in person the amazing friends I’ve made online, or get that job interview, they won’t be disappointed (or disturbed) by what comes to the table. High five! :) Also, if you *are* a tool (see above), don’t bother hiding it. If the offline you and the online you don’t match – eventually you will be found out.

Be Yourself, But With A Gut-Check: Again, just like real life. For example, I can use humour in spectacularly inappropriate ways. And I curse like a sailor. So I choose my times carefully. I’m not gonna crack dead baby jokes, or drop the F-bomb during business hours. And that’s just me, because many do! Again, I’m not following any rule here but my own. Show some respect, same as you were taught at your parents’ knee. Get a feel for your community, and learn when the fun starts – my Twitter friends seem to be fun and frisky all day on Fridays – no surprise there. And loosen up a bit ‘after hours’, just like in real life.

Stop Worrying: Social media types (myself included) harp on and on about being HUMAN. But often we’re the first to forget that very thing. We are all human beings on here. Some are more accomplished than others. Some are more – ahem – human than others. Just like out there in the real world. People make mistakes. But if you are genuine, allow time to cultivate and befriend a likeminded community, and treat everyone with the respect they deserve, when you make that **mistake…? You will be able to laugh it off and chalk it up to a learning experience. Just like you’ve been doing your whole life.

**NOTE: Expect to be eviscerated, skewered, and thoroughly roasted by your wonderful online friends – all in good fun of course – if you drunk Tweet even once. Trust me. I know.

Thoughts? What would you add? Am I right that our own personal set of morals and values when it comes to interacting with people can guide us through the social minefield? 

6 thoughts on “The Social Media Minefield – Throw Away The Rulebook

  1. I have so much to say in response to this.
    Let me start with a story you just reminded me of. (<— sorry 'bout that preposition. LOL) I tend to be a touch naive (people who know me well are now snickering at the understatement.) So when I was asked to bring home Cuban cigars by my husband when I was in Mexico, and everyone told me it was legal, I did what I was asked. As I stood in line at customs to get back in the states, I read the sign and stood there for five minutes knowing I could get through if I didn't say anything. But that I had to say something. Because I cannot lie. Turns out my husband didn't think I'd REALLY do that – try to bring in Cubans…. sigh.

    Ok, but to the point of your post, with which I completely agree, but here's the deal: Some people SHOULD be very afraid, because clearly they are socially inept. You say, "act like you would in real life," well, ya gotta wonder about some people. How about the dude that was handling the PR for the Arizona Special Olympics that tweeted something about midgets, and has promptly lost his job? People like that should indeed be very afraid because they have a glitch in their gut check.

    • Lisa, I laughed *out loud* at your story!! We had a similar thing when we accidentally brought too much booze home from Mexico duty free! I couldn’t lie! Declared at Canada Customs and the officer was so impressed she let us through with no penalty! Hahaha As to your second point, I 100% agree with you that corporations need rules and guidelines – and yes, there are total idiots in the world (let’s have a drink and swap stories! Lol) but I want the *everyday* person – the newbie – to stop being so afraid, to dive in and try SM out without worrying about the overwhelming amount of “how tos” and “how nots” out there! Thanks for dropping by, cheers, Lindsay :)

      • I wish I had been so lucky with the Cuban cigars. Got the interrogation, the thorough inspection, nearly missed my connecting flight, and as you can imagine, was PISSED at my then boyfriend which is not a nice way to return to the country after a week. LOL. what do ya know, I still married him. :)

  2. Oh I remember the Lindsay vodka incident of ought-eleven fondly. :)

    It’s one of the greatest reassurances that you’re doing things ‘right’ when someone can recognize that you’re exactly as your content portrays you to be. As you well know, I’m capable of some spectacularly inappropriate humor (spell it properly, L! ;)) and certainly let it fly on occasion, but I also don’t lose sight of why I’m in this crazy digital sandbox in the first place – I want to forge connections that could mean new career possibilities and financial reward. We forget sometimes that just be we can say it doesn’t always mean we should. Reputations can and have been tarnished (sometimes irreparably) because we spout off unfiltered. Set your own rules for how you act online. Wil Wheaton’s mantra of “Don’t Be A Dick” hasn’t let me down. :)

  3. Hey Jason,

    One lousy tweet!! Hahaha ok, I *might* have been slightly sauced! 😉 Love what you said: just because we can say something doesn’t mean we should. Exactly. And that’s where the guy check comes into play. No one goes through life spouting off willy nilly (though we all know some who do) – you consider where you are, who you’re with and who’s within hearing distance. And I think we should all have “Don’t Be A Dick” t-shirts! :) P.S. It’s the Queen’s English, d’ahling. 😉

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