Recently I got my feelings hurt. I am putting together a Fulbright application and I have to write about five significant professional accomplishments. One of these accomplishments was my Tedx talk on How to Get a Mentor. So I checked out my Tedx talk online to see how it was doing. I was pleasantly surprised to see I had 53,418 views and 274 likes (and these were not all from husband!). However, I was also sad to see the 23 thumbs down emoji’s. The worst part was reading a few mean comments like: “Her voice is so annoying” “Her story about asking for a raise is ridiculous.” “She is too smug for my taste,” and so on.
My first reaction to the haters was ANGER. My inner “dark Ellen” thought about firing off a response something like this: “You know what… Hey Loser- maybe you try doing a Tedx talk and see how you do? It is DAMN hard to synthesize 20 years of research into a 15 minute talk and deliver flawlessly to 300 people with a camera in your face. You are just a jealous troll! Smug? Are you kidding, I was terrified. I can’t wait to see you do a talk so I can judge the hell out of you.” Well, you get the picture of the dark side. We all have one. My dark side is not something I am proud of.
BUT, here is the thing, I STOPPED myself before I fired off any of these responses. Instead, I reached out to some of my social media gurus like Chaton at Extima Web Development and Lindsay, who is my super savvy MBA research assistant. They both reassured me that Internet trolls are part of the price we pay for being on social media. I guess I should feel happy that enough people have actually viewed my work that I have attracted my own haters!
Lindsay even shared this experience with me: “I have several close friends who are Internet trolls and I have had words with them over this. One of my biggest troll friends told me that she did it when she was really depressed and had a lot of bad things happening in her life-being mean to others made her feel better.” Wow! This perspective gave me some insight. It helped me remember that on the other end of every mean comment is another human being with feelings just like me…. And maybe some crap happening in their life that makes them kind of mean when they are anonymous online. I get it and I can have some compassion for that.
This experience and my own probably overly-sensitive reaction has inspired me to think about social media a little differently. We seem to be trapped in a zeitgeist right now of incredibly divisive and at times cruel social discourse which seems to be more and more acceptable. But, I think we can be better than our dark selves. So, this semester when I teach social media branding, I am also going to encourage my students to go beyond the idea of creating a social media brand. Yes, a Brand is important. But maybe we also need to each develop our own Social Media Philosophy. In other words, ask yourself: Who do you want to be in the world when you are online? What criteria do you want to use when you make comments online? I love this advice which I know has various origins and this version is attributed to Bernard Melzer:
Before you speak (or comment online) ask yourself if what you are going to say is true, is kind, is necessary, is helpful. If the answer is no, maybe what you are about to say should be left unsaid.
At LMU we talk a lot about Magis – which is about yearning to be more, to be better, and to make the world a better place. When I am online, I think Magis is going to be philosophy. I am going to be more my best professional self and keep dark Ellen under wraps where she belongs. What is your philosophy of social media? Think about your last week using social media. What did your comments to others say about you?