How to Avoid Social Media Nightmares
Elizabeth Mellencamp Johnson, Arête Purpose Consulting
Through all of the “chatter” about social media, you would think that it is the kids that we need to protect online. There are parenting columns talking about this concern. There are policies at school that address these behaviors. There are even parental controls that can be utilized to manage immature hearts and minds.
But, sadly, you have to get the grown-ups behaving correctly before you can manage the behavior of children. And as we all know:
Grown-ups and their social media skills are worrisome.
This fact worries employers of grown-ups. Employers are committed to the communication and preservation of their brand story, the community they serve and the values that they represent. This means, employers don’t want grown-ups messing that up on their personal social media post.
In the world of therapy, scary dreams come in three different, striking scenarios. People hate these dreams. And I am sure you know them: The “I wake up and I am naked dream,” the “I am in a nasty bathroom dream,” and the “I am in a dark room and can’t out!” dream. The crazy thing is that grown-ups do these scary dreamlike-things to themselves in real life, every day, and online.
I call this “foolish tweets, or postings, or photos, oh my!!”
Three common online nightmares and how not to create them for yourself or your employer:
On Stage and Naked
The most common nightmare I hear about is a dream that puts the dreamer in a situation where they are in public, on a stage and naked. Putting this in social media terms, think about sending an image of yourself or another without clothing — and the whole world, not just your seventh grade class can see it.
You can almost imagine the embarrassment in the dream, can’t you? Your frienemy giggling at your misstep, even pointing at you from the darkness of the auditorium. The class bully and his group of ne’er do wells, huddled up and getting ready pounce as soon as you are out of the limelight, saving that image to embarrass you again and again, even on your 10th class reunion. And oh yeah, here comes your 7th grade principal. And you just know that he is going to call your parents.
Social Media Rule: If you wouldn’t want to do it in front of your seventh grade class naked, don’t send it.
The next scariest nightmare is the “nasty bathroom” dream. In this dream the dreamer is in the middle of dirtiness and nastiness and can’t get clean. In social media terms, this would be like commenting or sending a tweet or post that, no matter where it is sent, creates a pile of stinky poo.
You know these tweets and posts. Between two people of like minds, they are inappropriately funny. In the real world, they are offensive and hurt other people’s feelings. If you are connected to them, and woe to you if you were the one who originated them, you can’t get away from their stink. “Yuck-stink” follows you online.
Social Media Rule: If it is not private, read private, really, I mean private, then consider this…. Would you want your favorite teacher, your boss, or respected mentor to think you said that? Or that you even endorsed it? If it wouldn’t pass that sniff test, don’t send it, resend it, and don’t comment.
Dark and No Way Out
And finally, the dream that makes people, “I am so grateful that was just a dream!” when their eyes pop open. This might be the scariest of all the nightmares. The dreamer is in a dark space, there doesn’t seem to be a way out. Every hall leads to a locked door or a dead end, and something is chasing you. In social media terms, once you say it, nothing you say takes it back. And people hold you accountable for your words.
You can recognize this faux pas: The follow-up posts fly back and forth between asking for forgiveness, explanations of the obvious, and personal defensiveness: “It was a joke.” “I am so very, very sorry.” “Well, really it is you who are misunderstanding, not me being an ass.” “Again, so sorry, so very, very sorry.” “I can’t believe people take me so out of context!!!!” “I am so very sorry.” “I can’t believe people would say that about me!” “Again, sorry. So sorry.”
Social Media Rule: Pretend everything you write will be read aloud, in a court, in front of a jury. And you will be held accountable for all damages. Do you want to have that read in court?
Come on, grown-ups. Let’s show the kids how to do it.