The New Road Rage: Social Media

You comment on an online family photo without thinking, bitchily ranting on your cousin’s Wendy boyfriend Joe and his geeky glasses. Five months later, you receive a wedding invitation for – you guessed it – Joe and Wendy. Unfortunately for you, he has seen your post – the one you never thought would catch up with you. Well, this is awkward. It is social media outrage and its consequences can be devastating. Next time you are posting to your Facebook Wall, you may want to think twice.

“Social media is like your online brand … your online identity,” Eric Papp, author of "Leadership by Choice" and a business educational program producer, said. “So when you are putting stuff out there, the poor service you received at a restaurant or sounding off about traffic or the car in front of you, the one driving the blue1998 Dodge Ram and you are making him wrong, people will start to see you in a different manner. You are dropping that bomb. People are going to think twice before they interact with you, before they call you, before they do business with you. And what they think of you as well.”

We’ve all heard the rumors. So and so got caught messaging someone, and his wife divorced him. Marie saw Carlos had liked his ex-girlfriend on Facebook, and they wound up breaking up. Yet it is all too easy to perceive there are no repercussions after we hit Enter.

“It makes it seem as if it has no consequences because there is no immediate reaction,” Papp said. “You’re not physically present. You can fire something out on somebody’s Facebook Wall, you can send a tweet out, and there’s not that immediate reaction or consequence. But if you are sitting in front of someone, let’s say you’re in traffic and you flick somebody off or tailgate someone too closely, well, there’s obviously going to be a reaction there and that person is going to see that, that person can communicate back. So with social media, they can hide behind a computer … They can think there will be no consequence when there absolutely will be a consequence.”

And social relationships are not all that can suffer. With a quick search, anyone – including prospective employers and your current boss – can find you on Facebook, Twitter and more, and know exactly what you are putting out there.

“Young people in college today should be mindful of what they put on their Facebook profile because all the employer has to do is Google their name and they see they are using profanity or maybe using it on a blog, or whatever, and it really gives them more insight into who that person is,” Papp asserted.

He is a believer in practicing mindfulness. “So when you put something out there, realizing that it can get picked up … Just because nothing’s going to happen, you never know – a week later, a couple of months down the road,” he said.

social media: the new road rage

“For a company, your reputation is at stake,” Papp said. “It’s huge.” He points to the example of Netflix, which raised its prices and then immediately lowered them following a big social media backlash.

“There are definitely costs involved,” he asserted. “Your reputation is at stake. Beyond reputation is actual business. People are either going to continue to do business with you or not.”

It could even potentially blow up into a lawsuit. If you have a blog and post something about a business that cost them sales yet your assertions weren’t true, that company could take legal action under defamation of character.

“Look at it,” Papp advised. “When you are typing it up, if this were to go into the newspaper tomorrow, would I be okay with that? Think of it like that because you are typing it up. Yeah, it’s going online, but just think of it as in print. Sometimes that hits people more, ‘oh, if it were in print, that would be different.’ I wouldn’t say that. It’s just on the Internet. So the question, if it were to go to print, would I say something different? Then people will be more cautious.”

The key is to be aware of your online reputation. “Do I want to be looked upon as a complainer or whiner? Somebody that is always spouting off? Somebody that just cooked a meal and is always posting pictures, ‘look what I just made’?” Papp questioned.

People will always, well, be people. Posting in anger will never completely go away. But as more and more stories gain traction, the backlash may well lead to Internet surfers veering on the side of caution.

“You are still going to see rants and raves, going to see people posting pictures, (but) hopefully people will exercise more caution,” Papp said. “Oh, everybody can look at my Facebook page. Hopefully people are monitoring that closely, you are going to continue to see that … The whole idea of something you put on your Facebook Wall, something you put in your blog is private, those days are gone.”

Papp urges social media users to think through what they post and realize their audience. Your Facebook page is being watched by not just your friends, but say your girlfriend, your girlfriend’s friend, your girlfriend’s mom and maybe even your girlfriend’s aunt.

If you do fall victim to social media outrage, Papp advises to clean it up as quickly and neatly as possible: “Whatever you had a grievance against, clean it up, whether it was a person, a company, go get it resolved. And then go post your experience on how you cleaned it up.”

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