Beneath Social Media!

There is one office colleague of mine who comes across as very taciturn. Even standoffish.

Bother to look beyond the surface and it’s a whole different story.

The guy is actually a closet romantic. You can tell. By the songs he chooses for his caller tune on his phone.

He is a deep thinker. You can tell. By his comments on Facebook posts.

He is a family man. You can tell. By his posts on Facebook.

He is a pain in the ass. I can tell. By his refusal to budge on deadlines.

He is worth his weight in gold. I can tell. By the superlative assignments he turns in. Albeit late.

He is also one stubborn, cussed individual. You can tell. By the way he persisted in chasing his bank on Social Media till they rectified his problem.

He had a right as a customer. But I advised him against doing so because I was worried that he would get labelled as a troublemaker by the corporate world. Was I right in cautioning him?

Maybe I was.

The Economic Times this morning (February 20, 2015) carried an article titled CXO Files: Watch out, India Inc is Trailing You. The article describes the level of background scrutiny being undertaken by search firms prior to making an offer to a candidate.

Well and good. An organization’s interests must be protected. And reference checks are needed. The only issue is I wonder how thorough the background checks are and if a candidate is deemed guilty without so much as a hearing.

It’s worrying because the same Economic Times article details how search firms are digging down into all sorts of personal details, even financial spends. In one candidate’s case, they found a hefty pub bill. In another case, an offer was withdrawn when it was discovered that the candidate had made (and lost) a huge bet on a stock.

I wonder if the candidates were judged on just that one incident. Or, if anyone had bothered to check if it was a chronic pattern.

I wonder if we are now going to have constantly look over our shoulders in the worry that some action of ours may be misinterpreted?

Looks like we might have to do just that.

The Economic Times article I read came hot on the heels of another article How One Stupid Tweet Blew Up Justine Sacco’s Life in The New York Times Magazine. Authored by Jon Ronson, the article describes how Justine Sacco’s life got destroyed by one rather unthinking acerbic tweet. It’s an honest, caring piece. And I would urge everyone to read and ponder over Ronson’s words. I quote, “I started to wonder about the recipients of our shamings, the real humans who were the virtual targets of these campaigns. So for the past two years, I’ve been interviewing individuals like Justine Sacco: everyday people pilloried brutally, most often for posting some poorly considered joke on social media. Whenever possible, I have met them in person, to truly grasp the emotional toll at the other end of our screens. The people I met were mostly unemployed, fired for their transgressions, and they seemed broken somehow — deeply confused and traumatized.”

Ronson is absolutely on target when he compares the shaming campaigns on Social Media networks to the lynch mobs of yesteryear.

I ask again. Was I right in advising my office colleague to be careful of using Social Media as a complaint tool?

I think not. Because, as I said, he had a right as a customer of the bank (and his problem did get promptly resolved when he finally resorted to using the Twitter handle of the Bank’s Chairman). Also, we must speak up about issues of injustice. And not live our lives in fear.

But what if I was right? What if one day my colleague is scrutinized by a future employer? Would his one social media campaign to get his bank to listen get seen as his being insensitive to corporate interests? Would his effort to resolve his issue as a bank customer be inferred as unionist tendencies?

What if the character sketches drawn from Social Media is sketchy stuff? After all, my office colleague is seen as taciturn and a stubborn cuss. I would get disbelieving looks if I called him a closet romantic.

Social Media networks can be liberating. They provide an outlet for creative expression.

Social Media platforms allow worldwide community sharing of news and opinion. They are a panacea for loneliness. They help families bond via sharing of happy memories.

With the right friend networks to boost you, Social Media can be a force for good.

Till one lousy personal error of judgement, one fine day, destroys it all. Bringing the wolves baying to your door.

“A single lie destroys a whole reputation of integrity.” So said Balthasar Gracian (1601-58), the author of The Art of Worldly Wisdom. That was in the 17th century!

Well, it seems life has not changed much. If anything, it may have got more dangerous. Courtesy Social Media and people’s penchant for forming hasty opinions, which then become tantamount to Balthasar’s single lie.

Perhaps what we need is a movement to establish Social Media etiquette. One which teaches people to avoid being so judgemental and damning. One which aims at driving values such as kindness towards one’s fellow beings. Much like The Maxims of Ptahhotep, written in the 3rd millenium BC.

It is in this context that one feels encouraged, delighted even at corporate initiatives such as the just announced Dove + Twitter: #SpeakBeautiful.


Featured Image Credit: Duluth Memorial 2 (To three young black men wrongly accused of rape and murdered by a mob) by Sharon Mollerus: (Attribution 2.0 Generic – CC BY 2.0).

#Jon Ronson #SpeakBeautiful #Justine Sacco #SocialMedia #Etiquette

Related Links:

  1. Jon Ronson, The New York Times Magazine –

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *