Bullies and Acceptance
One of my children is very interested in play by play sports. He studies sports and practices making podcasts. He is also working events and got a job with his school doing play by play for all sorts of sports. I have been working with him to develop social media strategies for him to gain knowledge and insight into what works and what doesn’t work. Last week, we decided to use Tik Tok based on discussions from Gary Vaynerchuk and observations about greenfield social platforms.
Instead of putting my child out in the open, I decided to become his client. Effectively, he would be my social media marketing person. Since he spent hours studying Tik Tok and listening to Gary, he came up with an approach to gain some attention upfront.
He took a video of me having a text message conversation with another one of my children. The message was short and effectively it was my younger son telling me that it would be hard for me to get a lot of likes. My post was essentially asking to help me prove him wrong. What happened next was the whole reason why I didn’t want my older son to put himself out there in the first place. It was essentially the answer to the this test. My post didn’t go viral in the sense of millions of hits but it did gain thousands. The problem was most of the comments were “ok Boomer.”
At first, I didn’t know what that meant but the good ole internet was fast to explain it. Thank goodness the comments were all targeted at me. I imagine I would have felt much more passionate about this if they were out to hurt him.
I am openly confused about how we are dealing with the dramatic chasm between political correctness and at the same time, the voracious and brutal personal attacks and bullying on social media. While in my case, it was meant to be a learning experience, in many other cases, it is harmful and painful to people with good intent. Today, comedians can’t make fun of anyone. We have very tight controls with social capital governance which impacts our intrapersonal relationships. In other words, we have to be thoughtful, mindful and self-aware as to maintain some kind of hyper empathy. At the same time, it is ok to express personal attacks and commentary on people personally on social media. I am not on many social platforms, but for the ones that I am, there is a specific network that I have intent to maintain. I care about those connections and enjoy them. It is the dark social that I am addressing here.
A few years ago, I had my first experience with this dark social, when I wrote a blog about my experience with Comcast. My yard had been dug up and I was frustrated that it took over six months to get resolved and that I had damage that persisted beyond that. Someone thought it would make sense to post the blog on Reddit. They put it where Comcast helpdesk staff could see it and what ensued after that was nothing short of a public flogging. In fact, some of the people went through my blog and ripped me publically for everything from my writing to my looks. It was brutal and I had to grow from it. I stopped writing for a while until I could get past the nasty hurtful personal attacks. After a while, I decided to write again but I would be much more mindful of the consequences.
Lesson and Understanding
From a business perspective, we should have a social presence and seek to build and maintain both personal and informative but non-personal connections.
From a personal perspective, I am not sure why we put ourselves out there for harm. I do a blog every week but my intent is to learn and share. I am not taking selfies and exposing every aspect of my life. I am taking some risk and I recognize it. I don’t mind when people disagree with my thinking or perspective, I can grow and learn from the dialogue. I do mind personal and offensive one-sided hateful attacks which quickly digress from the topic to who I am or what I look like.
What this tells me is that as hard as we are trying to communicate and reconcile the idea of inclusion, we are failing in many ways. We are failing our children and in the long run, they will suffer as they are perpetually confused by mixed messages. In many ways, I think social media for personal use is one of the most dangerous tools in our global society today. One wrong move and relationships are severed. One wrong post and jobs are lost. One wrong comment and a person could be in social purgatory which punishes a person indefinitely.
I talk to my children about being careful about what they post. At the same time, they can’t control what others post about them. Beyond that, we can’t control what AI or social systems construct about us. It is a social graph that cuts across all of our interactions on the web and beyond. Our connection to each other and their connection to us.
The underlying lesson here is that we must be always conscious and aware of what we do and what we say under every and any condition.
I don’t know what the future will bring when it comes to social media but my perspective on it at the moment is that it is akin to an unlocked weapon always available and always at the ready. Words are powerful, they inspire, they create and they can kill. We certainly can’t live in a police state when it comes to words and opinion but we also can’t go down the path of mob rules.
If we do, it will be the end of us.
What do you think?