The Dangers Of Being Yourself In Other Spaces
Posted by Mitch Mitchell on Oct 27, 2014
Last week I wrote a post addressing the topic of being controversial when it comes to a business blog, and how you might not always want to go that route depending on what the topic is and how it might impact your business. I’m realizing that I should have taken that further because it’s not only a blog that you have to worry about.
Back in 2008, I was new to Twitter. It was a presidential election year, and emotions were running high. Early on I wasn’t sure who I was supporting for president, but I did know one thing. I was ecstatic about Barack Obama having the opportunity to win the Democratic nomination for President; in my mind, having a truly viable black candidate was something I never expected to see in my lifetime.
He won the nomination and got to run against John McCain. Then the hate started against him, and it wasn’t pretty. Being against a candidate with different political views is one thing; you always expect that, whether you want to get into it or not. But things went way further than that. It got racial, hateful and ugly. I know because I saw a lot of what was streaming on Twitter at the time. I hadn’t really gotten to the point where I was perspicacious in who I was following; I was trying to build up numbers.
The thing is that on Twitter, at some point it’s not just the people you’re connected to, but the people they’re connected to as well. And things blew up. I started deleting people from my stream, not because they had a different political point of view than mine, but because of what they were saying about Obama in racist terms; have to call it out as I see it.
What was shocking to me was that some of the people saying these things were fairly well known in online circles. This was before celebrities had embraced Twitter, so the big names were all internet people, some people in other fields here and there, but mainly internet stars. These were people who taught others how to behave in their own space, and here they were, failing in public.
You know what happened? A lot of those people went away in 2008 because of their hateful words. People saw what these people were really made of and decided they didn’t want to work with these folks or buy products from these folks. The internet celebs said that they should have the right to their opinion, but you find that every time you decide you should have the right to your opinion, no matter how hateful it might be, you forget that others have the right to their opinion as well, and their right comes with the option of spending their dollars elsewhere.
At this point in my life I’ve decided I don’t want to deal with that kind of controversy. Therefore, I remove anyone whose political positions are against mine in all social media spaces. I don’t swing too far when it comes to things I believe in either, so I sometimes kill my connection with them also. I’m a fairly balanced guy who doesn’t like extremes unless I’m pulling for my favorite sports teams.
What this means is that there are business opportunities I could be missing, but it also means there are business opportunities those people could be missing as well. Almost no one gets to spew vile things in one minute and conduct business as usual in another once word gets out.
Case in point as a closer. There was a guy I knew some years ago who used to like to make videos to express his point of view on things. The topics weren’t extreme but his language was. He did this on a personal blog, and to him it was just a bit of fun.
Until one day one of his clients came across it and didn’t like the content that was on the blog. He immediately closed his account, and as people who are upset with things often do, this guy called a few other people and told them about the blog. Two others decided to disassociate themselves from this guy because they didn’t want to take the chance that one of their customers might come across it and think they approved of this behavior.
The guy immediately tried to fix things but it was too late. He shut down his blog, removed all his videos from all the places he had them, and worked for the next year trying to replace the business he lost. I lost track of him after a few months as he ended up shutting down his website as well, so I never got to talk to him again, and had to rely on someone else to give me an update.
Cautionary tale that I wanted to share here. As I always say in many places, if you’re not ready to back up your position for everything you might want to say, you just might want to keep it to yourself, or at least don’t let it get onto the internet.