Why Don't People Get Social Media Is Not Private Communication?


...the world is becoming too fast, too complex and too networked for any company to have all the answers inside.  Yochai Benkler. Yale University from The Wealth of Networks

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Just One Crowd Sourced Question

Yochai Benkler's quote (above) reinforces the idea that many people hold the answers to a question. Bringing people into the mix from outside of your organization, or your blog, can open the discussion to new ideas and paths that you have yet to traveled. 

Just One Crowd Sourced Question is a "sometimes" series where I reach out to people in my social network and invite them to reach out to their networks to answer .. just one question. It's a quick turn around .. a few days to respond. The goal, of course, is to bring you diverse opinions so we can learn together. 

Recently one more agency was fired for an inappropriate tweet. We're not talking kids, but adults from politicians a la "Weinergate" to PR and advertising agencies who seem to be "misusing" Twitter. I just don't get it. These are smart, savvy people who seemingly don't understand that the digital world is an open network.

A few months ago I had the privledge of conducting a workshop for the 18th Annual Larry Brickman Educational Conference sponsored by JF&CS. The event supports mentally disabled adults and their families. My session was on how to ensure saftety using social networks.

I  structured the time to ensure the session was mostly discussion, so I had the opportunity to interact with all of the attendees. Let me tell you, every person who was particiating in social networks -- Facebook and Twitter -- totally understood the concept that what goes out into the online world can be passed along even in the most highly gated platforms. 

Keeping that in mind, here is the question I put out .. 

Question: Why don't people "get" that Twitter, in particular, and social media in general, are public forums where the world is not only listening but can respond back, pass along (online & offline) and often find its way into main stream media? 

As for the Redner twitter gaffe, he should have listened to his mother, "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't tweet at all." Redner did get that social media is public forum and knowingly used twitter to publicly vent. Any agency representing a client has to learn to "think before they tweet."Danica Kombol @danicakombol

I don't think this issue is restricted to social media. Absolutely everything we post electronically can be retrieved and come back to haunt us. For example, if workers use their business e-mail addresses for frivolous purposes, they may get reprimanded.

If they use it for unsavory purposes, they may get fired. On social media and other Web sites, pages appear to be stored forever. What one says today, may be viewable in five years from now. One never knows. That's why it is of utmost importance that people self monitor their posts, photos, videos, and comments. Forget George Orwell. Big Brother is watching us all NOW! :) - Elaine Fogel @elaine_fogel

Bottom line (at least to me): these blunderers don't take their assignment seriously. I am sure they "get it" (with regard to the seriousness of the media), but they don't seem to "get" THEIR responsibilities. It's really quite simple: RESPECT yourself, your role, your assignment, the tools, and your client. When you do that, you behave appropriately, and establish systems that help you eliminate errors. These people aren't doing this.

I always ask this simple question, "If you were accused of blogging/Tweeting/Facebooking with the utmost propriety, care, respect, and skill, is there enough evidence to convict you?" - Rick Short @RickShort21

We have less privacy now, and I think that's a good thing. The reason nobody used to throw rocks through Church windows was because we lived in small towns and you'd get caught if you did something like that. People like Anthony Wiener are realizing that, because of the transparency of the internet, we live in a Digital Mayberry and if you do something wrong, you'll get caught. It won't be long before everyone realizes this. Until then, we'll have the occasional Wienergate. - Anon

I think individuals feel bolder behind their computer as opposed to in-person. 1. They lose tact. 2. There is lack of maturity. One has to be mindful at all times, whether in person or online. One has to ask: Will something I write hurt someone? 3. Some people are risk takers: Every once in a while some people might want to take risks with a thought or a comment, hoping it will go viral without the community backlash. Murphy's law comes to mind here. If something can go wrong, it will. 4. Sometimes Newton's Third Law applies to social media - Action and Reaction are equal and opposite in direction. If you rub the wrong person (someone with a huge following) the wrong way you can expect a strong reaction.

That does not mean you don't do it - the instigator may not always be right but again go back to #2 > Be mindful and also make sure YOU have support. 5. Written words often get misconstrued. The black and white medium especially twitter which is limited to 140 chars does not allow asterisks to explain. 6. A lot of times people don't really know you and know that you are well intentioned but were just careless. 7. It's easy for others to take offence and share it. Often times in person you might mind something and forget about it. But online, the retweet and share buttons are only a click away from the itchy clicker finger.

Be mindful and mature, Look before you leap. Be honest but be tactful and be prepared for big reaction to a big action (or little one).  – Prashan Kaw @prashantkaw

They call it social media for a reason. If it's something you'd to say to everybody, say it. If it's a secret you'd tell only a few, think before you speak; it might not be a secret very long. Rob Petersen @robpetersen 

Most people don't get that Twitter is real-time and world wide. Twitter is like no other social media. It's so misunderstood that it's often under used yet over rated. In most cases the value of a tweet is in the moment, unless you're a high profile person. In that case every tweet has mass media potential.- Bernie Borges @berniebay

Perhaps this is a question about people's capacity for self-control, especially egotistical ones. Twitter and social media in general simply make it easier than ever before for someone to have their rants or manifestations of ego get out of their control and blow up on them. Hence, the issue is age old...human frailties but in a world where nothing remains hidden very long. – Anon

I recently started mentoring my nephew-in-law, a graphic designer, teaching him to create WordPress websites. He started his first site that day and put a header on it and one post and that night he posted to Facebook a message about having done his website and about the services he would offer, which by the way were not even on the site yet.

 I saw it because of course I am his friend on Facebook. It was weird because he was in no way ready to do any of that. When I saw him the next day, I mentioned that I saw his post and I thought a better approach would be for him to wait and get everything polished up before he "presents" himself to the world, ready to work. He laughed it off saying he just wanted to show his buddies what he had done.

This is an another example of this same myopia. I know at least five of my friends are on his Facebook friend list since I introduced him to some of them. Some of these people work in social media or digital agencies and are in positions where they could someday hire him or help him to find a position. It is not just "his buddies" that are seeing what he puts on his page.

We all need to be cognizant that nothing anymore is really private . It is hubris or immaturity to not see how small the world is today. We had we better live our lives in a way that we are showing the same face to everyone because ultimately you cannot hide out. The dirty secrets, the stolen copy, the way you look when you go to the grocery store after working in the yard, are all up for prime time. Are you ready for it? Judi Knight  @judiknight

Now .. it's your turn .. Why don't people get that social media is not a private communication?

Read More Just One Crowd Sourced Questions 

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How do you put "soul" into a blog post?

How do you build B2B relationships using social media?

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Toby, Great post and great question. It seems obvious but people just don't really get it. Oh Well!

Posted by: JudiKnight on Jul 1, 2011 5:44:50 PM

Great post Toby!

Very good example of your nephew-in-law being shared. Most of people dont get to know the real purpose of Social media.

Posted by: Virtual Business Assistant on Jul 2, 2011 1:09:35 AM

Thanks Toby for this relevant and timely post and for including me in the roundup of opinions.


Posted by: Rob Petersen on Jul 2, 2011 9:22:41 AM

Great post everyone should start paying attention to what they write more often.

Posted by: barb g on Jul 2, 2011 1:15:25 PM

I LOVE this post. It rings so true. some just don't get the real purpose of it.

Posted by: Social Marketing Dynamics on Jul 3, 2011 3:43:14 AM

Thanks for including my quote, Toby. The other day, the daughter of an old neighbor posted about her sexual encounter on Facebook. I was shocked - she's 18 and her parents can probably read it. Imagine if it ever shows up in a future employer's research. :(

Posted by: Elaine Fogel on Jul 6, 2011 5:25:10 PM

Toby, Great post and great question. It seems obvious but people just don't really get it. Oh Well!

Posted by: penny auction on Jul 30, 2011 5:04:15 AM

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