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.

Business correspondence

A short phrasebook for secretarial business correspondence has been published in my name. I was somewhat surprised when it was brought to my attention. I’m pretty sure it extracts the key phrases from a large collection of letters I wrote about 12 years ago, edited down by the publisher a few years back to bring out the ‘essence’ of each letter. I’m grateful for the additional publication, but frankly, my input here was limited.

The slim phrasebook is a “Prämie”, or bonus, offered online to attract customers, with a “Schutzgebühr”, or nominal or token fee,  listed on the cover. It’s also on offer on online marketplaces for €14,95, but would anyone really pay that much in this day and age?

I do find looking up complete phrases to be very helpful. I needed some formal French correspondence phrases yesterday to write to a gallery, and found the right phrases online. Sometimes it’s a special grammar form you need, and more involved phrases such as the ones in the 16-page booklet are more liable to include such extras.  So here’s wishing you a bit of serendipity – incidental, fortunate, unexpected discoveries – as you go through business correspondence phrases!

Cornelsen Basis for Business C1

How exciting – the book I worked on for a year, with Carole Eilertson writing the practice sections, has just been published. I’ve been lucky to work with inspiring people and a great team, with Janan Barksdale editing, and now the book is public. There will be a teaching guide by Andreas Grundtvig and a workbBasisCook by Mindy Krull coming out soon. Here’s hoping learners find it useful. I wish everyone who uses this book very productive and enjoyable learning sessions! Do let me know what works well for you, and what doesn’t.

Onkel-Braesig-Strasse

Scratch off the wallpaper in the front room upstairs, and out comes Taut’s blue. Fantastic. I’d love to just leave it as is, but I’m worried it will be too busy. Many of the walls in this room and in others are all patched up from new wiring. So I’ll make a window of sorts wherever the original color shows through, and then match the color with silicate paints and try to reconstruct the look, for this room for sure and perhaps for some of the others. This blue room is going to be my and Helmut’s home office. There’s a great view of the buildings across the street from here, the walls of which show up in the oxblood red and ocher yellow Taut used. It has the feeling of true primary colors. One of the downstairs rooms was originally painted a dark green. He was clearly not one to be cautious about wallpaint.

Our house

onkelbraesigHelmut and I have decided to move to the Hufeisensiedlung / Horseshoe Estate in Berlin, a social housing estate designed in 1925-33 by architect Bruno Taut, municipal planning head Martin Wagner, garden architect Leberecht Migge and Neukölln gardens director Ottokar Wagler. It is one of the earliest such estates in Germany, a physical metaphor of the utopian ideals that its planners had for communal living in Weimar Germany. The estate was awarded UNESCO World Heritage status in 2008 as one of six Berlin Modernism Housing Estates, and since 2010 has been listed as a garden monument.

We’ll be renovating for a while before we move in, and have to budget and plan and get permissions and select a builder and coordinate schedules. Exciting. Continue reading Our house

Thank you

Thank you for help with Cornelsen Basis for Business C1:

  • Helmut Burger for being my first sounding board
  • Janan Barksdale for being so patient and thorough and making something that seemed impossible work
  • Carole Eilertson and the advisors Mindy Ehrhart Krull, Andreas Grundtvig, Gabi Hirthe, Marion Karg, Karen Richardson and Miriam Zeh-Glöckler for being constructive, though faced with an emergent book
  • Anna Batrla and the Cornelsen team for doing it
  • Claire Hart for presenting the book at ETAS in September.
  • The secret role models for Azra, Ben, Jörg, Carla, Doris and the all the other characters
  • A Nivea PR brochure provided the team for 1A+B
  • Thank you, Jens Kröger and Endress + Hauser for 1C
  • Amazon Marketplace provided the model for 2A
  • Thank you, Tobias (+ Beate) Ziegler for input on 2B
  • Jens (and Rose) Galdiks, thanks for 2C
  • Thanks Christian Koch, for introducing me to Scrum and explaining how proposals work
  • Thanks, Dad, for all of the proposals you wrote when I was little. 3A + B
  • Thank you, Gabriele Vollmar, for 3C
  • Thanks, Khushi Pasquale, for telling me about Eisenhüttenstadt for 4A, and for the story about the deer
  • Thanks, Thomas, for sharing difficult emails for 4B
  • Thanks, Gill Woodman and Andreas Grundtvig, for 4C
  • RWE and Fuhrländer, I mined your online publications for 5A
  • Siemens Financial Services is the model for the services pitched in 5B
  • Jan Jaehrling, Ingrid Pradel, Andrea Schwarz, Alexandra Goller and of course Simon Moroney of Morphosys, thank you for sharing for 5C
  • Thank you to the advisors for 6A, which seemed to get everyone on board.
  • Thanks, Helmut Burger, for help with 6B
  • Thank you, Franz-Josef Nuss, for 6C
  • Udo + Claudia Böhm-Awiszus, thank you for 7A
  • Thanks to Mindy Ehrhardt, Ash (Lucy Mellersh’s husband, why do we do this last name business, anyway?) + Jürgen Strauss for very helpful input for 7B
  • Thanks, Carsten Baumgarth re marketing and kudos to Sara Rosso for World Nutella Day, 7C
  • Respect to Raveena Aulakh and the other investigative reporters in the wake of the Bangladesh factory fire. Compliance hotlines at BASF + CISCO, and a press conference by NZ Fontera also inspired 8A
  • Patagonia is the true Alpia in 8B
  • Thanks, Christian Hodgson, for inspiration for 8B+C
  • Thank you, Eamonn Fitzgerald, formerly Spotlight Online, for letting me practice three paragraph essays

The ones that got away:

  • Zoe Carruthers for inspiration re sales – even if that didn’t make the book
  • Dietmar Müller of Adflow – I’m sorry we didn’t feature your company
  • Niclas Gondorf and Herr Finke of Dyson – very sorry we couldn’t feature your company
  • Uli Botzenhardt, Alexander Nast, Claudia Engelhardt, Dung Huong, Bill Chaney … : Many thanks for your support, contacts and advice