If you haven’t caught wind, yesterday there was a dust up around this status update by @ScottBourne. “I’m consulting with a wedding #photog studio selling against a studio doing $500 weddings. Our new ad – ‘We fix $500 wedding photography.’ “ While I would normally ignore the “controversy” surrounding the heated discussion that followed, I soon learned that my friend @mitzs had received some harsh words via direct message from Scott. I have never met @ScottBourne but I do feel his tweets with @mitzs could have been more civil. Let me go on record and say, “Yo Scott! What up with dat? A bit rude ya know.” If you need to get up-to-speed read @mitzs blog post about professionalism (NOW with tons of comments) then @ScottBourne blog response to the topic of cheap photography, and if you want my opinion on the subject then read my articles on How Much Are You Worth? or Understand Art & Business 101 and finally Forbes & Crowdspring Fire-up Designers
My point today is not to defend or attack anyone, but highlight the shortcomings of communicating via status updates which have evolved from longer written communication via blogs or email. Maybe you’ve been in the workplace long enough to recall HR presentations about proper email etiquette. The primary focus of these presentations was to make employees aware that the written word is often literally absorbed by the reader, and applied wit or sarcasm can quickly be misunderstood. Email evolved to include emoticons, asterisked salutations *smile* even SMS lingo to help convey the tone of a message. The fact is the subtly of vocal inflection is something we easily forget about in the written word. How many times have you received an email you thought was funny, but when read literally by someone else they didn’t get it? “Oh, you’d have to know John to understand.”
It’s now 2010, and email is still used, but SMS messaging is becoming more prevalent. Twitter & Facebook require you to get your point across in 140 characters. In Scott’s blog post today, he responds to the controversy by stating, “I repeat, I was half-joking. I knew it might be a bit controversial given the fact that people who inhabit social media tend to be reactionary and don’t always stop and think before they react. (Me included) But I guess I wasn’t prepared for death threats – again.” Basically, without the context of Scott’s conversation, the statement by itself rubbed a few folks the wrong way. Conversations have only escalated into a large flame war via blogs, comment boxes, tweets & the like. With that in mind here are a few guidelines for communicating in the short form:
1. Learn to use emoticons, gestures or a simple LOL to convey humor, sarcasm, wit, or otherwise not serious statement. “Babies–the other white meat.” will be read literally no matter how absurd that sounds by thousands of folks. Sure, you can argue only the stupid ones without a sense of humor, but you only avoid stupid people by living in a vacuum.
2. Have a lot to say, include a link to a blog post on the topic. This won’t prevent people from flaming you, but at least your status updates show proof of your intentions.
3. If you’re going to DM someone via Twitter, have the decency to follow them so they can DM you back. This promotes a bit of good will, and perhaps a private conversation might (I said might) stay private.
4. Don’t jump on someone for a single “rogue” tweet. Take a moment to read their Twitter stream to see if the statement falls into a larger context. Simply put, maybe that conversation has NOTHING TO DO WITH YOU.
5. Don’t make it personal. Sure you’re getting in some zingers right now, but what happens when you’re reminded of your transgressions later? Passionately arguing a point does not require aggressively attacking the person involved in your discussion.
6. Don’t take it personally. We’re all adults. “Sticks & stones…” and all that stuff. We’ve all been disappointed by folks we admire, those who didn’t meet our expectations. Social media opens up a new world of expression, but it doesn’t hold you hostage. Everyone is free to unfollow or unfriend whoever they choose. You can’t change other people, but you CAN make a change.
This isn’t the first nor will it be the last time a difference of opinion leads to obstinate debate. Strong willed opinions with good intentions tend to get overshadowed by loud-mouthed voices filled with vitriol & angst. That’s why I love United States. Where else can such a dysfunctional, diverse group of people mix themselves into the melting pot of American greatness?