social media mannersOnline Jock or Geek?

By far the best thing about social media is the many cool people I have “met.” My friend Benjamin Daniel, a Jules cheerleader across many social media platforms, is thoughtful when it comes to examining PR and Communications issues and has a wonderful grasp of the English language (and he’s not afraid to use it.) I fear that I got him started in thinking about all that is unsocial in social media. Read on to find out if you are a social media Jock or destined to be a Geek.

Guest post by Benjamin Daniel

Freshman year in high school was interesting. While not exactly a social outcast, I didn’t quite have the cachet necessary to invade the upper social echelons of the cafeteria. I definitely earned entrée to the geek fringe; I thought building radios from kits purchased at Radio Shack was how every American boy spent their free time. I couldn’t quite muster the self-interest and sartorial splendor necessary to stage a raid on the beautiful people/jock/socially competent section, however. I later learned that high school wasn’t really a table-setter; people can be whomever they decide to be. It appears I was destined for geekdom.

Similarly, social media have, in some instances, established and grown a pecking order. The cool people (all 500+ million of them), initially fans of MySpace (still around, by the way) use Facebook. Amateurs blog using Blogger while the serious users have all gone over to WordPress (think Apple versus Linux/Unix/whatever programming language or operating system has a devoted and extraordinarily technical following). Indies use Tumblr. Twitter is everyone’s favorite microblogging tool, the guitar-playing high school tennis prodigy who managed to be Student Body president, prom king and to get accepted to all of the Ivy League schools to which he applied. The serious-minded professionals, those people voted “Most Likely To Crash and Burn a Savings and Loan”, migrated to Linked In. Linked In, ostensibly a forum in which to network, build business contacts, develop meaningful relationships designed to increase users’ business prospects, search for work and commune with like-minded individuals with specific business interests has, in some cases, moved on to the cool part of the cafeteria.

People are on Linked In squabbling over the appropriateness of certain forms of behavior. They’re up in arms that a physics geek stumbled into the cool corner of the cafeteria. They’re telling people posting in certain forums to keep their blog posts, requests for business contacts, ideas, self-published books and sad-sack stories about having lost a job after 25 years of dutiful service to themselves. I’m sorry, but isn’t this the point? Aren’t Linked In users supposed to offer assistance via their contacts and the folks in their networks? It’s silly that some Linked In groups are excluding folks or otherwise ostracizing users who won’t hew to a completely arbitrary company line. Like Gleeks under slushie and snark attack from the jocks and cheerleaders.

I spoke to a woman I’ll call Mary. She’d contacted me about a technical issue related to using one of Linked In’s online storage tools (they’ve partnered with Huddle Workspaces and to offer online storage to Linked In users) to post items for others to view, edit and download. She was frustrated that some folks thought it inappropriate to ask after business contacts able to help with her job search, deeming such requests for information “inappropriate”. She said, “People are talking about their dogs, cats, costumes and dinner dates but I can’t get a piece of contact information?” Or something like that.

Look, I’m all for moderation. There are advantages to a group ensuring its members exhibit appropriate behavior. But when social (media) norms involve metaphorically tossing geeks and social misfits into cafeteria trashcans, something’s gone wrong.

Lend Linked In users a hand, folks. It could be you that needs help with Algebra next.

7 thoughts on “Is Linked In Becoming A High School Cafeteria? [Guest Post]

  1. Great post, Jules. *giggles*

    You ever written something, sent it out for consumption, returned to reread it and found it lacking in some significant way? Surprisingly that didn’t happen here.

    Thanks for graciously ceding me your forum for a bit of quiet ranting. Seriously, the injudiciousness of some social media users puts me in mind of your recent posts on etiquette, the occasional lack of social graces attending on the widespread use of social media and another post you referenced about the impossibility of the existence of the dodo known as the “social media expert”.

    I can’t begin to know what animates the interactions in some of these online forums but people can be extraordinarily uncivil. While the flea market that is (occasionally) the Web can’t really be regulated (unless the big Internet companies have their say and Net Neutrality is officially a pipe dream), we can, I think, strive to improve relationships with others particularly, as is often the case with folks like us who depend, at least in part, on others and their perception of our Web presences to make a living, when you’ve no idea who might be “listening” or “watching” on the interwebs.

    You’re a winner, Jules. Thanks again.

    1. This is a true story and it was not me: Two people met in a casual situation, one was in a position to hire the other. The potential employee friended the potential employer on Facebook, then over the next few days consistently posted about a health problem that kept her from working. By the end of the week the potential new boss said, “I wouldn’t hire her now. She’s too sick to work, but can get online and gab with her friends. I don’t think so.”

      All this is to say that you are absolutely right: “You’ve no idea who might be ‘listening’ or ‘watching’ on the interwebs.”

      Now, if I believe in strongly in something (saving babies for example) I’ll post it, no matter where it puts me on the social scene. So, I would say yes, I am me, but I still filter. But of course, I am not a let-it-all-hang-out type of gal in real life either. Social media makes some people feel inhibited. That’s not always a good thing.

      Regarding LinkedIN, it was always my favorite social media site. The changes they made (to make it more like Facebook, I am sure) are lost on me. I like it straight up and professional. Time will tell, but as more people start logging on and getting into the conversations, you will see more of unsavory behavior.

      The beauty is, we don’t have to be there. Social media is so beautiful because it is so ME centered. I can make my experience just about what I like and filter out the rest.

      Thanks so much for taking the time to write for my readers. I appreciate your insights.

  2. Being a fan of the use of words depicted above by Benjamin, I am once again enamored. I do regret that I haven’t been reading his blog, however. I think I’ve taken a hiatus from the whole social media thing for awhile. Looking at my blackberry depresses me for some odd reason, and I don’t really want to know if anyone has said anything on my Facebook account to me. I just want there to be some eye-to-eye contact and a smile as I walk through Publix, instead of all the cast-down looks to check their instant messaging. Remember smiling? That was part of the above information. Being courteous and accountable on Social Media “should” be a part of it, but regulating it sucks. Thanks, Benjamin, for the reminder.

    1. Lucy ~ I have a lot of personal interaction with clients and organizations that I would with, which I would miss if I was totally behind a screen 24/7. One of the scariest things I did was take a 5 day tech break last fall. Guess what? The world continued to spin. I have done it a couple of times since then and it feels weird to turn off my toys, but then again, it seems weird that I am so addicted to them too. My kids are great at reminding me that to turn off the gadgets and just be regular. So welcome back online and thanks for stopping by.


  3. I feel mixed about Linkedin – on the one hand I think some of this rude etiquette is stemming from the history of it being abused in the past (too many consultants just trying to publicize their own blog posts and webinars). On the other hand, there is no excuse for cliques – I would think that we would all know that Linkedin IS about helping others out and making introductions.

    One thing about Linkedin is that it really depends on the group. Some groups I don’t enjoy at all and I leave, others are a wonderful, supportive professional environment. I’ll give a shout-out to Social Media for Nonprofit Organizations as I find it a real resource of helpful people and useful conversation.


    1. Debra ~ I agree that each group is different. I have had very valuable conversations with other PR professionals on my groups and I almost never mind their blog posts, etc. because they are relevant and interesting. Then, out of the blue, a sales person will show up and post “discussion questions” that are actually a thinly veiled sales pitch. It throws the whole thing off. I never accept their invitations to connect or comment. What I think would be uncomfortable is being rude to the poster – even if I didn’t like what they posted. 99% of the time it takes two seconds to scan and disregard a post/link and move on. On the other hand, I do think a moderator is right to move one way blurbs to the promotions section.

      Again, the beauty of social MEdia is the ME. We can come and go as we please and if a group doesn’t fit, then move on.

      Thanks for stopping by to be part of this group.

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