The summer of disscontent
I am not talking about the protests and COVID-19 pandemic and such. I am talking about the content that disses (disrespects) other people.
I use social media to communicate, and as a result, I sometimes offend people... OK ... often. Perhaps it is the people I interact with, a few of whom are propagandists or whacky people. I tend to speak my mind. I tend to not worry about my free speech being seen as offensive by others. But as a result, Russian propagandists and other nut jobs now tend to follow me around in social media and say wacky things to try to damage my reputation. Wild accusations, harassment, etc.
One of the things I do discuss from time to time with portfolio CEOs is the fact that they have to restrain themselves from voicing their opinions online because it is bad for business. Here, as a rarity, I will be presenting information where I tell you to do as I say, not as I do. More on that later.
How to not speak freely and help your business
DO NOT say what you think: Connecting your brain to your voice without filters can be problematic, but connecting your brain to your fingers without filters leaves a permanent record in searchable text.
DO NOT talk about anything other than your company: Using your own name and the name of your company, ONLY say things about your company, including advertising, announcements, new good things, and as a response to bad events. If you have something else to say, don't do it. Stifle yourself.
USE FALSE IDENTITIES: If you must speak what's on your mind, do it under a false identity, a nom do plum, another name. This will separate your personal from business activities and you won't lose business to people who disagree with you.
DO NOT talk about religion, sex, or politics: This is the oldest and wisest advice IF you avoid these subjects you will not create as many large-scale no-win situations.
Screw that! If you don't speak up against social injustice (politics), false gods (including money and political leaders), and discrimination (sexual or otherwise), you are supporting those things by your silence and they will come back against you. When they come for you, there will be nobody left to stand with you.
Having said that, you should filter your speech and your typing.
Just because you stand against violence or killing by police, or racism, or whatever, doesn't mean you should just blurt out whatever your brain happens to come up with at the moment. And if you are in favor of these things, you might want to seriously consider that the world has changed since you learned these things and rethink it a bit.
Most of our brains come up with all sorts of things that we don't actually believe. It's part of how we get ideas and think through things. It takes practice to be able to respond rapidly in a manner that expresses your true thoughts and feeling, because mostly, we don't know what we think until we think through it. We tend to substitute standard responses for thought, and repeat what we have heard elsewhere when we like it. "That has a tendency to happen".
"It seemed like a good idea at the time." comes to mind. A better approach might be to think through things before you ever get into these situations. I tend to develop and test strategies as general approaches, for example, here are some of my social media strategies:
Be nice about it: I have (recently) decided that niceness is better for getting your message across, not necessarily to the individual you are responding to, but to everyone else watching.
Depersonalize it: Generic comments are less personal, but at some point, you may feel you have to directly address the individual. If so, try to keep some humor in it.
Turn criticism into advertisement: When they claim you are too tall, advertise your big and tall stores. OK - that's a bad example, but you get the idea.
Reread it before pushing "send": This is really critical and really hard to do in many current forums on your phone. But do it nonetheless.
Don't try to say it too briefly:
Pick your targets: You do not always have to respond. Ridiculous claims can often be ignored, especially when made by one person or a small closed group (or supposed group - sometimes they use aliases to make one person look like more than one).
Use GOOD humor: I tend to use bad humor. It's my nature. But if you can turn malice into a joke, you may be able to distract from a bad message.
An (imperfect) example
Here is a recent (not all that good) example in response to a truly harassing and abusive wild claim against me:
What did I do wrong? Lots of things. (1) I personalized it to Alex - he deserved it, but it triggered more of his wacky behavior. (2) The joke at the end is always in bad taste - the twist to chess is an interesting one to me as it is the best response I have found so far to the question with no right answer. (3) I didn't review it well enough before hitting send (or I wouldn't have made the mistake of sending it this way - I would still have made the mistake of thinking it and typing it, but not sending it).
What did I do right? A few things. (1) I turned his claim of evil into an advertisement for good. (2) I countered his whole line of BS with the answer to the unanswerable question.
Of course he responded (I assume it's a he but could be wrong) "You are an ordinary thief and a crook, not at all respected Fred Cohen !!!" yet another 10 or so times in different threads.
I finally blocked this identity on LinkedIn, but that will have no actual effect. On the other hand, they may well have the account removed given the scores of such things that have said. You never know.
A call to action
So hopefully you won't make the same mistakes I have made, but when you do, try to resist them!
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Think before you act - even in social media. Do you want the business of these people? Of people who read things you and they say? And do you really want to display your feelings on the Internet for all to see? Do you want it associated with your business? Just asking.
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