We’re in a very polarizing state in the American union these days. Covid, race relations, the upcoming presidential election… you name it, add the word “ugly” to it and that’s where we are.
Social media seems to amplify that for one main reason; people in general can be stupid. I see it a lot more on LinkedIn than on either Facebook or Twitter. It’s probably because we have more control over what we see or don’t see on those two platforms as opposed to LinkedIn… but it hasn’t always been that way.
Back in 2008, I was new to Twitter; so were a lot of other people. It was another 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 gotten to the point where I was perspicacious in who I was following; I was trying to build up numbers.
Back then Twitter was more like LinkedIn is now. It wasn’t just the people you were connected to, but the people they were connected to as well. Things blew up! I started deleting people I was both following and those showing up in my stream whose comments were vulgar, not because they had a different political point of view than me, but because of what they were saying about Obama in racist terms; I wasn’t prepared for that.
What was shocking was that some of the people saying these things were fairly well known in online circles at the time. This was before celebrities had embraced Twitter, back when having a following around 10,000 people was a big deal. The big names were all internet people, a few 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 or buy products from these folks. The internet celebs said 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 overly far when it comes to things I believe in either, so I sometimes kill my connection with them; who wants to be mad all the time? I’m a fairly balanced guy who doesn’t like extremes unless I’m pulling for my favorite sports teams; these days I don’t even do that too often.
Unfortunately, I can’t do that on LinkedIn; it’s like Twitter back in the day and Facebook now. It’s shocking because it still touts itself as a business social media platform… but that’s not what it is 24/7.
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. For some people they look to get beyond it for business purposes; for someone like me, it ain’t happening.
Why? 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 his blog and didn’t like the content. The client didn’t want to be associated with someone putting out things like this. He immediately closed his account, and as people who are upset with things often do, he called a few other people and told them about the blog. Almost all the guy’s clients decided to disassociate themselves from this guy because they didn’t want to take the chance that one of their customers might come across the blog 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; it wasn’t good.
As I always say, 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.
As it pertains to racial issues concerning black people, I’m certainly going to have my say because I feel it’s important. Last week proved that once again it’s a hot topic. Police killings, police shootings, police not arresting people who kill protesters until way after the fact… no wonder many professional sports boycotted last week
If you disagree with the protesters and decide to have your say, go for it. Just remember that what goes around comes around… especially on a blog like mine, as I don’t participate in the GDPR thing.
I hope I don’t have to deal with it; I hope some of you don’t either.