Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Professionalism, Part III: Social Media Edition

Last week we talked about social networking, networking in general and the all-important networking rule: karma and the related Golden Rule.

Here, I want to talk about something obvious, to me anyway:

American Politics: You’re Doing it Wrong
Political commentary is a big problem with social media today, and this problem directly relates to professionalism. As in the lack thereof.

Where do people fail with social media and politics?

Blogs: For the most part, blogging is good. People seem to grok their blogs are forever, and thus avoid pissing off segments of your social network.

Facebook: Facebook is rife with unprofessional political commentary disguised as “my personal view.” There are also many people who link to bad things.

Twitter: You would think that Twitter, with its 140-character limit would be a little better than Facebook, but it is not. What happens are snide comments about subjects people think they know, but don’t, and, worse than Facebook, links to even more bad things.

FTC Disclaimer About My Politics
I'm neither a Republican, nor a Democrat, but you could consider me conservative in economic policies. If you’ve followed me this far, I’m a researcher and an analyst. I look at things with a different slant, and that includes politics, American politics in particular. I’ve plugged myself into the online social media networks of several political movements, even movements that I find very distasteful.

What does that get me?

Well for one, a headache. As it relates to social media, I have an outsider’s view. And that view has taught me a lot of what people say in social media on politics is crap.

Why People Suck at This
What is crap? Crap in social media, while talking about American Politics is:

And the number one, and I mean the number one mistake in talking about politics in social media by far is:

  • Linking to websites with the above problems

For example:

  • Commentary and then linking to a website to make it a point against the current Administration, while other posts on this site state President Obama is not an American citizen (“birthers”).
  • Commentary and then linking to a website to make a point for the current Administration, while other posts on this site go into graphic detail on why Sarah Palin’s recent son is really her daughter’s baby (“Sarah Palin Derangement Syndrome”).

How this Problem Bites People in the Tushie
In my prior post, I talked about karma and surrounding yourself with positive people and how the Golden Rule relates to professionalism.

The inverse is true. People avoid forming business relationships with these people:

  • People who show a distinct lack of empathy for a different viewpoint: translation, you are a difficult and negative person
  • People engaged in personal attacks, blanket statements, ad hominem attacks or straw man arguments: translation: you are a difficult and irrational person

Many people don’t even shutout the negative consciously. It is a natural reaction. It’s a natural reaction to gravitate, professionally, to other professionals. Unprofessional behavior has the inverse reaction.

Yet Another FTC Disclaimer: Some people are political commentators. That’s what they do with social media. That’s their platform and job. I’m talking about people like you and me, not people with seven-digit-hit-counters with a platform and vast audience, although, those people are sometimes guilty of a lack of empathy and irrationalism too.

What I'm Not Saying
I'm certainly not saying that we all should be politically sexless. What I'm trying to point out, like some things in life, the easy way sometimes is not the best way, and inserting your foot into your mouth or talking out your butt has consequences.

A More Positive Approach
A way to win people over to your viewpoint is a rational argument, even on social media, is to engage in professional behavior, even while dealing with the negative.

  • Do you articulate your viewpoint properly around moral and ethical considerations?
  • Do you have empathy for the opposing viewpoint?
  • Is your commentary shrill pieces designed around “ditto,” or have you an opinion, one you have researched) based on end-to-end thinking?
  • Did you base your viewpoint on a persuasive argument with foundations in logic rather than rhetoric?
  • Have you read/seen/watched/experienced the book/legislation/movie/movement your post/update/tweet covers?
  • Should you be spending your efforts on an entirely separate outlet such as your own political blog, separate from your personal blogs/Facebook/Twitter?
  • Are you preaching to the choir?
  • Are you preaching?
  • Are you aware of how people perceive the websites linked in your commentary piece?
  • Have you even considered the opposing viewpoint at all?
  • Are you being a bully?
  • Are you being elitist?

Notice how I didn’t say:

  • Don’t rant
  • Don’t be snarky
  • Don’t be sarcastic

Social media is supposed to be fun. And sometimes, okay, more than sometimes, a good sarcastic, snarky rant is just what the doctor ordered. Especially ones that show the Emperor has no clothes.

The Professional’s Rule of Thumb for Political Commentary on Social Media

Don’t tell me I should consider your opinion, show me.

Sound familiar?


  1. Great Post. Personally, I have a separate blog for my rants about politics, and anything else that makes me mad. During the election, I posted almost daily. I always made sure to link to the different fact check sites, rather than just blowing off steam for/against a certain candidate. To me, it was important to get the facts out during the election, rather than the partial truth that seemed the keystone of the election . . . or any election for that matter.

    As for Facebook, I'm silent about politics. Religion and Politics are two very touch subjects and the best stance in an open forum like Facebook, for me at least is . . . don't talk about them.

    As for Twitter . . . well, have an account, rarely tweet, and not about to tweet about politics and/or religion.


  2. I use social media to connect with readers, other writers, and friends. I try not to talk politics because it's really pointless. A staunch conservative is not going to change the mind of a bleeding heart liberal, no matter how many tweets he sends, and vice versa.

    The problem with social media is that it's a condensed written form that leaves out so much of the real communication. How many times have you sent out an email and had its tone completely misinterpreted? I'm guessing a lot, because the body language and tone of voice isn't something that's transmitted with the words.

    If I am going to have a real heart to heart discussion with someone, I have to look them in the eye. Otherwise it's all just bits on the screen.

  3. I enjoyed this post.

    I stayed away from blogging for awhile because I was afraid it might turn into me getting onto a platform and getting political.

    Honestly, before I started blogging, I had the impression that getting on a platform and being witty was what it was about.

    I'm quite happy that our blog focuses on productive stuff, rather than falling into some of the problems you point out.

    Cool picture, by the way.

  4. oh indeed. there have been many times when i've had to bite my tongue or walk away (rather, "click" away) because I don't want to engage. Although i'm pretty passionate about my beliefs (who isn't?), social networking sites are not the place. You are so right.

    Interesting point you made as well: we sidle around or begin to ignore or stop reading those people who are thusly unprofessional. I've made choices regarding agents because of their unprofessionalism; they don't know -- if they did, they wouldn't care. I'm just a peanut. But it's not about them. It's about me being comfortable with the person who (might) represent me.

    good post!


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