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A Social Media Sanity Check

By Guest Blogger, Mary Schmidt, Marketing Troubleshooter

Unknown Checkpoint #1: Before you type anything, what outcome are you hoping to achieve?

Checkpoint #2: Are you comfortable with a facebook comment, tweet or blog post being the first and only impression you make?  You really can't separate biz from personal on da Web. It's ALL out there and getting easier to find with each search engine upgrade. People can even see your political contributions from years past. In fact, that's a standard search whenever I'm doing competitive research or sales lead qualification for clients.  What makes the people behind the logos tick?)  

Let me give you a couple of personal examples: 

Recently, I engaged with a Facebook commenter regarding Barack Obama.  He had - as ranters do - run off topic (a link to an article about the Ohio voting machines and possible hacking in 2004) to "Obama's deficit." *Sigh*  Normally, I'd not have even bothered to put fingers on keyboard, but he had picked The. Absolutely.Wrong. Day.  I mean, really.  If we spent less time looking for people to blame (Obama, Bush, Clinton, our parents, our teachers) AND stayed on topic, we might get something done about the state of our country.  

NO thanks to social media, we can say whatever we want, to whomever, all over the place...Expressing our displeasure with John Boehner (or Barack Obama) is as easy as  clicking on "like." Then we can feel all righteous - hmpf! showed them! - and then move onto the next virtual world-shakin' topic. (I'm SURE both of them lose a lot of sleep over those Facebook pages.  Boehner ain't crying "orange tears" [although that's a fun, if snarky line] if people "like" one progressive page. )  

Anyway, back to the ranter. We ended up in a back and forth, including his indignantly claiming he wasn't a racist, offering as evidence that he voted for a "100% black guy" unlike "your only 50% black guy." (I think my jaw literally dropped when I read that.) After trying to walk it back and inject some sanity into the mix, I finally let him have the last word (or last little FB box as it were).  

Churchlady02 The ranter HAD to be right, and that was that.  So, I stopped.  However, what did the ranter really accomplish?  I now think he needs some mental help (Seriously. If a FB exchange gets him this upset) and he really ticked off his friend (who posted the original link to the Ohio voting article.)  Likely not the outcomes the ranter wanted, but then who knows what he wanted?   Other than to be right and to loudly proclaim his beliefs. Well, isn't that SPECIAL! (Cue my inner Church Lady!), but here we are - back at those icky grown-up things, outcomes.

I believe that Obama is doing a pretty good job, all things considered...and that Miracle Whip is better than mayo...but those are my feelings and those are subjective and I realize that.  As a - ahem - "good" liberal I try to look at other perspectives, even when it's almost physically painful (watching Hannity on Fox requires a martini in hand.)  I even on occasion agree with the opposition (such as with David Frum about cutting healthcare in the federal budget. Before you get the ropes and torches, go read the article and see what he actually said. Neither he nor I are suggesting that we put old people in the street to die.) 

Which brings me to echo chambers.  Technology has enabled people to engage in ways they never could before...all over the world, anytime, easily and quickly.  But, do we truly engage? Or, do we huddle safely in our little groups and reinforce each others' beliefs?  Reading the froth and fume over the past week regarding the debt ceiling was fascinating, from a sociological standpoint. The "left" was outraged.  The "right" was furious.  Pretty much EVERYONE was unhappy about SOMETHING. And, many of them had - at best - a tenuous grasp on legislative process and apparently absolutely no idea what the 14th amendment actually says. (Seems many skipped Civics class a lot. And who needs to actually read anything when we've got so many people telling us what to think? It saves so much time!)  Big bad conspiracies everywhere. Doom. Destruction. Evil. The "liberals" HAD WON!  The Tea Party HAD WON! Etc. etc.  Ad nauseum. (I had this mental image of Boehner and Obama, adult beverages in hand, at the end of a very long day, saying, "Well, we pissed off pretty much everyone, so we must have done something right!")  

I'd love to engage with the opposition, but I get into enough trouble with my fellow liberals.

It ain't all black and white, folks...or is it?  Which - Oops! There I go again! - was part of my comment re "Obama's deficit" that started the whole racism thang with the ranter in my first example. 

The outcome I hope to achieve with this post?  Give you a bit of a sanity check - just as the title says.  Remember noise doesn't equal true communications. If we're to ever solve problems, we must engage with people with whom we don't with people we don't "like"...and generally do our best to act like rational adults, not three-year-olds in a sand box.

While the pen (or keyboard as it were) CAN be mightier than the sword, it's all in how you use it.  


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Laura Smigielski Garcia

Well written, Mary! I'm amazed at what some people put "out there" - that will always be "out there". Intelligent discourse is always productive, but if what one is spouting isn't intelligent, but disparaging instead, that shadow will follow them.

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