How to die a social media death

Countless media bloopers, some with repercussions, have caused me to die little social media deaths. By “social media death” I mean that sinking sensation that I’ve done something that will turn my social networks against me.

When Twitter was still young, I would lie in bed at night thinking “Have I thanked XYZ for their RT?” It sounds silly and neurotic, but social media pressure to respond does mean that if you don’t respond, you’re not cultivating social media politeness. It eats up time. Many very organized people have got it down to an art. They’re admirably friendly and attentive online. Not me, unfortunately, I can’t do friendly fast. My solution is to continue to disengage and be less responsive overall. Now I just say what comes naturally when I have the time to say anything.

I was once a member of a Facebook group that shared music on themed days. Unfortunately, I hadn’t noticed that a video of the Yiddish song “Zehn Brüder” that I shared contained images of concentration camps. A Lebanese member of the group took offense and responded with a shocking video showing dead Lebanese children. Oh no! We were both chastised by the moderator of the group for being political. But I hadn’t been thinking of ‘current politics’ at all, I was exploring German Jewish history.  But who’s to define where culture and history end and politics begin? The incident was disturbing enough that I decided to withdraw completely, and stopped sharing anything of real personal interest online.

In any communication with someone else, it’s key to consider: Who is this person to you? Who are you to them? So what kind of water-cooler information will you want to be broadcasting to a group of people, and for what purpose?

Emails are more directed and controllable, but they, too, have caused me embarrassment, especially since I don’t always know the people I’m writing to all that well. Something I wrote off the cuff last year was misinterpreted, and subsequently used against a colleague I admire, who suffered a temporary setback as a result. I had no idea of what was happening, and since I had not intentionally said anything harmful, was clueless as to what I was supposed to have done wrong. When I found out there was a problem, it was deeply humiliating not to be given a chance to set things right. Overall, this incident proves that email  can’t replace face to face communications and phoning. This particular incident has also showed me that you can choose to be humiliated – but you can also choose to disengage.

Commenting on blogs, to me, is the canary in the coal mine of social networking. If I feel comfortable responding respectfully and intelligently on someone’s blog, in his or her reflective space, something good is going on. If I hesitate and rephrase and leave the blog feeling stupid, well, maybe it’s simply not a blog I should be leaving a comment on. What am I trying to prove? What have I got to lose? What are we all here for, anyway? Thus spake the canary, and flew away. In fact, feeling out of my depth on some of the better blogs made me realize I had much to learn. So I went back and hit the books.

Back online, doing ‘social media light’, I’ll probably die many more little deaths. Never mind. I think I’ll take these ‘deaths’ with a pinch of salt.

Facebook, LinkedIn, Xing, Twitter

After a year off social media, I’ve rejoined Facebook because so many of my peers are networking there, and I really felt I was missing out. Things like organizing meetups are happening there, or news on who is going to which conference, but also people having children and getting married, and career changing events like writing something or changing jobs.

Seeing what else people are sharing is really interesting. It’s frankly completely random, but easy to relate to, and quite entertaining.

I do have to keep my tendency to comment in check. I’m the responsive type, but in Social Media I tend to put my foot in my mouth. That’s what, in the end, made me decide to disengage a year ago. So for me it helps to concentrate on the fact that in social media, being a part of the game is the whole objective.

I just read a wise quote (posted by a colleague at BESIG, Holly Longstroth) that we often listen not to understand, but to reply. So less replying, more understanding.

Top service from SurveyMonkey

We’re just organizing a conference here in Berlin, we being a group of lecturers working across institutions, using a Ning platform we’ve called EULEAP to connect internationally. The institution that will be hosting this conference, the Humboldt Language Centre, is directed by Cornelia Hacke and the whole project is powered by the impressive David Bowskill and his team. At ELTABB we’re providing support. Michelle Teveliet has set up a great conference site here: EAP Conference 2013. You couldn’t wish for a better team. The lineup for the conference is impressive, the topics good, and it’s free to participants thanks to the great sponsors.
Now, the only issue is that we have limited space – only 100 people can attend including the organizers and speakers. That means we needed a way to organize signup. Michelle wisely opted for SurveyMonkey. But initially we hit a major snag. Just a day after the conference was first posted in a forum on the EULEAP Ning and had started being announced across various informal networks, and just before we wanted to go live and send out a formal mail shot to all interested partners, SurveyMonkey had technical trouble and shut down. Shock! They’ve explained what happened here. Anyway, that was the bad news, a bit of a bad morning here. But the good news is that they were back after 4 hours, and there was some nice person with a good sense of humor and a lot of patience tweeting away, calming the nerves of hundreds of users who were also missing the service. I can only second what A Crock wrote: Top customer service.  Here’s a brief history of those 4 hours documented on Twitter.

surveymonkey