Social Media - A Blessing or a Curse!

By Mark Hamister

Imagine it --- this baby boomer who rails against social media on most days --- now taking a step back and thinking about SOCIAL MEDIA!

I admit it, I am old and biased naturally against social media for more reasons than there are likely numbers. Social media and technology together have corrupted our abilities and incentives to actually talk to one another. However, let's take a more enlightened and balanced step back and look at social media.

My first conclusion after some exhaustive research that has taken the last several weeks is --- social media is here to stay and younger adults and kids love it! So, like it or not it does not appear that anyone will cause its demise. Therefore, wouldn't it be wise to step back and think about social media, leadership and how to more effectively employ social media? That has led me to this expert article (although I use the word expert loosely here).

My research found many articles and real experts listing dozens of cautionary tales about social media. I will narrow my focus a bit and focus on those social media matters which impacts business and employment. I found a significant number of conclusions among the experts that too many people use social media without a filter and do not think about consequences.

Think about this quote that I found:

"We don't have a choice on whether we do social media, the question is how well we do it." By Erik Qualman

THE GOOD OF SOCIAL MEDIA

When I was building the Company, we did not have the internet, computers or social media. When we wanted to get the word out we worked hard to deliver upon marketing strategies. Today all you need are thousands of followers who in turn have thousands of followers and you can get a message out to large quantities of people, with little cost and some time.

I love the ability to find a great hotel on the internet or a great restaurant when I am traveling.

Social media is a great place to learn about the good side of humankind. When people stay focused on the positive it can be enlightening. Imagine the story on May 4, 2017 shown on ABC about a seven-year-old girl who lost her leg and with a smile on her face battled to walk back to school. What a wonderful story of a person's "will to live" and do good! I hope that you saw it. The story was picked up by social media and viewed over 1.5 million times.

Social media is a great place to promote your services or products.

I would be remiss if I didn't say how wonderful it is to be able to "shop" from my couch at home at night. Without the internet and social media, I could not gain input on quality and services. I love to shop online vs. going to the store.

In short, I have become a huge fan of social media and internet access to information, products and services.

Imagine how wonderful social media would be if we could become more disciplined as people and less mean spirited by thinking about a few simple lessons and rules about using social media. That brings me to the bad and ugly part of social media which, if we all employed a little more judgement and kindness, would help social media to become a more positive contributor to quality of life with less stress. After all, when did it become wise to "rant and rave" about others while disdaining those who do it to us?

THE BAD AND UGLY OF SOCIAL MEDIA:

UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES: Far too many people do not consider the unintended consequences of social media. Many people seem to use social media as a place to "let off some steam". The problem is you can't take it back and you are telegraphing to everyone who reads your "rant" that YOU:

  • Are not interested in what the other person has to say.
  • Do not seem to care to discover who is right or wrong --- or in some cases where there is no right or wrong, just different opinions --- what the right way is to come to an understanding?
  • Feel only your opinion counts --- ergo, who should be complaining about whom?
  • Complain in social media when it is usually about differences in people.
  • Are inflexible and a coward (since you can't seem to do the right thing and have an adult conversation with the other person).

Do you really think that such posting will actually do anything good? If not, your motive is what? Could it be that you need to look in the mirror because in fact you might be mean spirited?

YOUR NEXT EMPLOYER --- WHAT WILL THEY THINK? What do you think your next employer will think about you? (let me be clear, my attitude is if you will complain about your past employer in social media --- when will you complain about us?) Is this the right way to settle differences? This is serious stuff. Here is an example of a comment recently posted on LinkedIn from a recruitment agency about one of their top candidates they were recommending:

"I just had the leading candidate for a senior level position be taken out of consideration after the company found questionable material on a social media page. This is a good example for all of us that it really DOES matter what you post on social media and employers really do look at it!!! Take a second to check yours today!" By D. Gestwick, GRS

"DO UNTO OTHERS," GOLDEN RULE: Have we all forgotten about what our parents taught us --- do unto others what we want done to us. The rule applies to social media as well. Instead of addressing the brutal facts of how we feel (about a person or a company) in social media we should instead address them face to face with the person. Would we want the person that we are not happy with writing something negative about us in social media? Are you perfect? Have you looked in the mirror lately?

FALSE INFORMATION: All too often people who make emotional posts on social media do not have the facts, or at least not all the facts. They base their opinions on biased and incomplete information. If your life depended on it --- would you make decisions on such incomplete information?

ADDICTION TO SOCIAL MEDIA: In this modern era, more and more people are becoming addicted to social media and sharing too much information about themselves and in some cases posting negative things about other people. Social media has its place, but rants will only cause harm, stress and damaged relationships. Are you addicted?

VENTING FRUSTRATIONS AGAINST ANYONE: Friends have "dumped" friends because of nasty rants on social media. I ask you --- who wins? I think no one. Employers have discharged employees for negative posts. Sure, you can go on a rant against your employer. After all, we live in the USA. But those same rights that give you the ability to engage in these rants gives your employer the ability to say no thank you and discharge you for nasty posts. Your employer is issuing you a paycheck. They have a right to expect your hard work and loyalty. What person thinks that their next employer will not react negatively when they see your posts? Lastly on this point --- do you really want your boss thinking --- I can't have a reasonable debate or ever show my displeasure with someone because they might make a social media post. Now your first reaction might be --- great. However, that means that they will let things build up until the bubble bursts. What do you think will happen then? Did you just win a very short term battle by venting publicly while losing the war (I mean your job)? Think first!

CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION: Your friends and your employer both expect you to keep their confidential information --- confidential. If you don't, you will lose friends and your job. Who wins when that happens?

SOCIAL MEDIA ON THE JOB: Most of us understand what theft is on the job. Have you thought that unless social media relations are formally your job that engaging in social media exchanges on the job is actually stealing time from your employer. Is this honest, or right?

DON'T BE FOOLED BY "SHARING RULES": Most people I talked to thought that they could control many of the negative outcomes discussed earlier in this brief article. Don't be fooled. Most of us have hundreds if not thousands of friends. Then some friends share what their friends post and before you know it all kinds of people know what you thought was on a tight network. If it is on the internet --- you should assume that it is widely public. As an employer, you would be surprised at the number of people who draw to my attention the missteps of their peers on social media.

IN CONCLUSION:

So, I ask this simple question as you think about these comments --- how do you want to live and how do you want your children to live?

What is wrong in our country these days has more to do with polarized opinions of different people than it is about how we are all different. I am thankful that we are all different. I cherish those differences and enjoy the debates that result. Are you contributing to polarization or finding harmony with those that you disagree with?

© Copyright 2017
Hamister Group, LLC