Thursday, October 9, 2014

Forgiving and Forgetting In A Social Media World

I saw something on Facebook yesterday that really bothered me.
It was a nasty jab at a rather infamous White House intern who made a grave mistake around 1995 that she has yet, almost 20 years later, to either live down or be allowed to forget.
It made me wonder.  In the world of social media, when do we get to put our mistakes behind us?  
When do we get to be forgiven?
I’m going to say straight out that I’m not a huge fan of Facebook.  I feel compelled to log on at least once a week because I have this vision—it’s a fear, really-- of meeting an old friend who I haven’t seen in ages, who asks me if I’ve seen the pics of her daughter’s wedding (insert graduation, birth, world tour) and I have to say, no. 
Even though I wasn’t invited I still feel like a schmuck because I neglected to write “gorgeous,” in response to the news. Even when, let’s face it, coming from a relative stranger the comment would be meaningless.
But, back to the intern.
The post in question was forwarded from someone on my feed (and before that came from someone I didn’t recognize) and as far as I could see, was a jab about the intern turning 50 (she’s not even close to 50 btw—so it was as a totally lame joke). Regardless of the origin, an opportunity for a laugh at another’s expense, especially when the butt of the joke can’t defend, is still just a cheap shot.
In my mind this is the same cyberbullying we hear so much about that levels grade school and high school kids, and I suppose there’s a part of me that sees that intern in the light of “there but for the grace of you go I.”  Here’s why:
1)   Thank god above (and all the angels and saints in heaven) that when I was 22 (the intern’s age at the time of the transgression) there was no Facebook to chronicle all the silly things I did that I’d rather forget (because believe me, many might have been the fodder of well-meaning, amateur photographer friends). I know I have dozens of college pals—and you do too--who feel the same way;
2)   I’m the parent of two kids around the age the intern was when she fell from grace. What do her dear mother and father suffer, 20 years on, from this constant, unrelenting bombardment of their darling daughter (because we all desperately love our children, regardless of their mistakes). They must be daily heartbroken. How long do they have to suffer this picking at an old wound?
3)   Why can’t the intern be forgiven? Why? Why? Why?  She was a young girl who, granted made major mistakes, but didn’t we all at that age (see 1)? And why, why, why hasn’t her collaborator suffered the same shame and mockery? In fact, I would say that her collaborator has come out rather well. If not smelling like a rose then at least like…I don’t know… cannibus that wasn’t inhaled? (skunky, everybody wants some, its mostly legal and seriously lucrative).
Sounds like a double standard to me. But how is that ok? If there are two people equally guilty of something, why does only one suffer long after the fact while the other seems to sail away relatively unscathed (and at the very least, long since forgiven)?
I could go on but the bottom line is that we all do/have done things we’d rather forget we did.  In the days before Social Media we could apologize and hope to move on.  But that’s not the world we live in now.
So, we have to adapt.  I get that.  But if we live in world where we’re going to put everything we do out there, shouldn’t we evolve into a species that’s far more forgiving?
Don’t we actually have to be more forgiving to survive?
Because let’s face it.  We all make mistakes. Big ones. All the time. Every moment of every day.  Sometimes out in the open where, if we ask, most of the time (but certainly not always--the intern being a case in point) we are  forgiven even when we may have wounded deeply. Other times our mistakes go unnoticed, hidden in the dark corners of those pious, self-righteous minds we guard, that we pretend are so pure, so chaste.
And if we keep this up, insisting on putting ever moment of our lives up for public view, won’t each and every one of us, in our time, make public mistakes?  Won’t we, or our children, at some point be next in line for ceaseless scrutiny, mockery and unrelenting bullying?
And then, won’t we deserve to be forgiven? 
And above all our mistakes forgotten?

image: Paris Tuileries Garden Facepalm Statue. Image courtesy of

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Listen Up

Your Reputation May Depend On It

It’s been a little over four weeks (five weeks and two days to be exact) since I posted and according to Kerry Rego, one of our instructors at the SSU Professional Social Media Certificate program, if you can’t manage to post once a month, then you probably aren’t quite ready to launch a blog for your business. 
Fifty lashes with a wet noodle for me.  I will try to do better.
Kerry has a lot more to say about social media than just talking about the appropriate regularity of blog posts (although she does have a great blog herself that can be found here). 
She’s a talented social media marketer who also specializes in protecting your reputation online.  It’s the sort of thing you don’t think about, harboring a false sense of security that you’re safe until one day you learn there’s a hidden Facebook page or Twitter account about you that is anything but flattering.  Her insights on Snapchat are positively terrifying!
I recently heard Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa, speak at the Wells Fargo Center and someone in the audience asked her if she knew there was a “Drunk Ina Garten” account on Twitter. Apparently it’s wildly popular.
Ina had no idea.
And while the Barefoot Contessa brand is fairly safe—that evening her adoring fans just about wept with delight at her every pronouncement—a more fragile brand might not fare as well.  The moral of the story? Keep your ears peeled and know what’s being said about you.
There’s something else about Kerry Rego.  
She’s never, ever boring.  And on Thursday nights, as the hands of that standard issue classroom clock swing towards 9:30pm, this student (and I believe all the others, too) thanks the SSU Social Media Gods for bringing us someone who has important things to say and says them in a way that keeps us all awake.

Charlie Chaplin Photo credit:

Thursday, March 6, 2014

 We're All Getting Along So Well...

The SSU Professional Social Media Certificate Program continues to be an enlightening experience although my favorite class thus far was the service learning evening a few weeks back.  We students were charged with explaining to volunteers from the SSU faculty about the social media channels we felt we knew the most about.
I felt pretty shaky about all of them but chose Linkedin and worked with Angela, a recruiter at a software firm, to help an SSU professor brainstorm about marketing tactics for his current and upcoming books, published papers and professional speaking appearances.
Angela had a very firm grasp of Linkedin and was exceedingly helpful to the Professor.  And surprisingly, it turns out I knew more than I realized and was able to take years of marketing experience and apply it to ways the Professor could use Linkedin to reach his target audience.  It was an outstanding experience and gave me a boost of confidence about using social media in general and Linkedin in particular.
Weeks ago, Merith set up a special Linkedin group just for our inaugural class and we’ve been posting and commenting ever since.  Angela put up an interesting piece this week about a woman who was publically exposed by someone who extended an invitation to connect and got an outrageously snarky and mean-spirited response.
My grandmother always said never write anything down that you wouldn’t want published on the front page of the local newspaper. Ms. Blazek should have been given the same advice.  Granted, the response could have been her reaction to a horrifying day in which she’d just heard some terrible news either about herself or a loved one.  In other words she could have been acting out—something that, let’s face it, we’ve all been guilty of at one time or another. But how she couldn’t have imagined her remarks might travel beyond the woman asking for the connection to, at the very least, her group of friends and associates, is beyond me.  Even more confusing, the Blazek woman was in the business of giving advice about getting work.  Isn’t that sort of like being in the business of selling shoes and reaming someone out for asking to see that boot in a size 7?
Bad manners aside, the story has stuck with me all week long and got me to thinking what social media really means.  Social doesn’t mean intimate and there was a "familiarity breeds contempt" sort of intimacy about Ms. Blazek’s response that I see all too often in comment sections on blogs and newspapers. Respondents often resort to personal digs and name calling (and much worse) when they read an opinion with which they don’t agree.  There’s nothing social about being mean but that’s where we are.  Sometimes it feels like while social media has given us greater access to our publics, our manners haven’t yet caught up.
Remember Rodney King?  Can’t we all just get along?
I'd love to hear what you think?  Is the "social" in social media misplaced?   

photo credit:
<a href="">Michael 1952</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

January 23rd marked the first night of class for the #SonomaState Professional Social Media certificate program. It's the first time SSU has offered the program, and according to John Kenyon, the SSU instructor slated to teach the metrics portion, there's already a waiting list for the fall semester. 

I'm not surprised. 

The first class was a bit of a jumble with all of us having to go across campus to secure our passwords but once that was taken care of, we got down to it, starting with getting to know one another.

The class is a cross section of age, career and gender, which makes comments and questions all the more interesting.

But different though we may be, we all seem to share at least two things in common: 1) a curiosity about how we can bring what we learn into the world; and 2) a genuine enthusiasm for the subject matter. 

I haven’t taken a poll (just yet) but it seems most of our shared interest comes as a result of the business world embracing social media—granted some earlier to the party than others (the wine business has been notoriously slow on the up take). And while our enthusiasm is organic, it’s definitely enhanced by the passion of the current instructor, Merith Weisman. 

An anthropologist by training, Merith really knows her way around this stuff and seemed to have an instant rapport with her students.  At the end of the first class, as many of us were clamoring at her all at once (I for one was foaming at the mouth about not being able to navigate around my Prezi), she remained calm and smiling.  All I could think was, “that woman has the patience of Job.”  The word unflappable came to mind.

As to the Prezi, I’d never heard of one before. Oh, what's a Prezi you ask?

It's a digital presentation platform that at least to my mind, makes Powerpoint seem static, ancient and boring.  Once I got the hang of it, I found it easy to navigate and dare I say…fun (all those bubbles remind me just a little of champagne).  Maybe most importantly, I was gratified when I asked the two recent college grads staying with me for the weekend if they'd ever heard of it and they both said no. 

Wow, something I know that someone under thirty doesn't know that has to do with technology? 

The class just paid for itself.

Among many other topics related to social media (too many to list here), during our second meeting we discussed the assigned reading.  I hadn’t thought about it before but it makes sense that weaker ties can be leveraged better than closer ties. I’m not as likely to trust an endorsement about your best friend, but I’ll trust what you say about someone you worked with on a project.  Did we just describe the Linkedin business model?
At one point, Merith said something that struck me; it’s called Social Media for a reason.  It's about being social, about joining the conversation, talking with, not at, a larger audience. 

I realize that my having to think about that might seem strange, but the fact is that what we're talking about here is social (warm) rolled up into technology (cool).  For those of us born (quite a bit) before Jay Leno took over the Tonight Show, technology still carries with it the slightest hint of "other."

Obviously I have a lot to learn.

So since I’ve been meaning to start a blog for a while, I thought it might be fun to blog about my journey through this course from the prospective of a writer who isn't yet comfortable using   social media in a professional capacity.

I thought I’d start a conversation and see where it goes.

What about you?  What are your thoughts on the #SonomaState Professional Social Media certificate program?  Leave a comment and let’s continue the conversation.