Living In Public

This is a response to Chrissie Brodigan‘s post, “Don’t Feed the Trolls: Dealing With Social Media Sins”.

Not that I give a damn about disclosure, but I’ll mention that Chrissie is a friend of mine (as is probably everyone else she’s talking about in her post):


I posted about this back in June: [].

Basically, in order to “live online” as we do, one needs to remain mindful of the lowest common denominator. Whatever you’re “saying”, make sure that if your employer or your grandmother or your “significant other” or you CHILDREN see it, that it’s an accurate representation of yourself that you’re willing to OWN… because odds are that eventually you WILL have to own it, and probably in a fashion that you didn’t consider at the time.

Even “That was then and this is now” is only a partial defense. Look at the Presidential campaign that just went on. John McCain acted like A JERK for the whole time, and then when it was all over and he lost, he gave, IMO, a heartfelt, genuine, really respectable and admirable speech. Things like that can alter people’s perception about a person, but the facts and memories remain about their prior behavior, even if the ‘pain’ of them is muted by the person’s present actions.

So, ultimately, the WIN is Prevention and not Cure. Does that call for sacrifice of some (or many) things one would want to do or say? Yes. The question, however, is what do you really want in the end? Do you want to have social media friends, who don’t know everything you think and feel?… or would you rather be known for what you think and feel and let the chips fall?…..

Social Media is characterized by asynchronous relationships… basically, stalking, in a one-way fashion or a mutual fashion. I might get two comments on a post I make, and then everyone I run into IRL is like “I read your post, blah blah blah”. You can’t suspect that the people you hear from are the ONLY ONES that dislike what happened. Those are merely the ones who are willing to risk THEIR OWN social media reputations by wearing THEIR hearts on Twitter in the same way you constantly wear yours. It basically branches out and people take sides behind the scenes, which is what causes “floods”, because a lot of people get fed up at the same time… a lot of people that the person in question probably wasn’t even AWARE that they knew of or had any opinions at all about the situation, which they thought, for some odd reason, was contained to a small group.

On top of that, our NYC set is different from other groups, because we’re in so much physical, IRL contact with each other. I’m very used to going to parties where I know 60 people on the Facebook “definite” list. I have over 200 mutual friends with several people on Facebook, and a lot of those people live here in NY or NJ. Obviously, all of these people are not going to get along with each other. The only way to navigate this group is to remain neutral. I can care or not care about the situation, empathize or not, but ultimately, it’s none of my business, and I’m not going to tell or suggest to people what they should do, and I’m not going to choose one side over the other, between people that have historically been decent towards me and have developed some sort of beef between each other.

So, to apply my own theory… When I go to that party that at least 60 people that I know are going to show up to, I have to be mentally prepared to OWN anything I’ve said about them since the last time I saw them. I also have to OWN the videos I make and the blog posts I make and the currently 710 pictures of myself on Facebook, where I can’t turn around and say “no… I don’t know that person” or “no… I wasn’t at that party”. I have to own what I say and do AT the party. I have to own the media I output about that party and the cycle continues. So, basically, every stitch of media that you output, you need to check yourself on whether you’re willing to own it, ad infinitum.

As this pertains to your suggested rules for offenders:

You always “Acknowledge Action”, because it’s in “Black & White”, and YOU put it there yourself. It’s not like paparazzi ran up and quoted you and put it in the tabloids. If you post from a position of ownership, acknowledgement is obvious.

You can’t “Become a Victim”, because you’ve already owned the media. You already know WHY you said what you said or did what you did and you already thought about how you would defend it before you pressed “send”. “Defense” is merely informing people about what you were thinking when you posted it. The only real question is whether you unintentionally slighted someone in a way you didn’t anticipate when you posted, in which case, if you feel like apologizing for it, that’s completely appropriate. If they take offense at something you fully MEANT to say and currently stand behind at the point of the ensuing conversation, the issue becomes whether or not you were out of bounds with what you said and whether “the shoe fits” as far as what you said about them, which THEY would need to recognize, and get out of your face.

The Final Frontier is blocking people. That doesn’t keep them from finding out about YOU, but it keeps YOU from hearing what THEY have to say about you. If people aren’t going to be rational and have intelligent discussions with you (assuming YOU’RE acting rationally, to begin with), then the solution is to agree to disagree and hope to avoid those people as much as possible.

So, Yes… It’s EXTREMELY COMPLICATED to live in public, even the limited “public” of our echo chamber, but that’s exactly what it is… an Echo Chamber, which means that everything you say and everything everyone else says is going to keep coming back to you. Your best bet, as I’ve outlined, is OWNERSHIP from the giddyap, so you’re fully prepared to deal with the ricochets.


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  1. Wow man. Fantastic post. Some really important advice.

    Thinking about your accountability to everyone, including your kids, really hits the nail on the head, as is being prepared to own your words.

    This is way more complicated to manage than it used to be. Everything we say and do has far wider-reaching consequences than ever before, and we have to adjust for that.

    Thank you for bringing some healthy, constructive discourse into the conversation.

  2. @Tony: Thanks man. Cheers! 😀

    The thing is, this is what I do. I do media for business. I do media for fun. I’m the guy behind the scenes that CREATES videos and CREATES storylines, so it’s my actual JOB to consider the potential context of something or how other people might perceive it.

    Meanwhile, Social Media has opened up the ability to people that know NOTHING about media in general to express themselves on the net. Over and over and over and over and over, people do things that they THINK are contained, but they’re really not. They THINK they’re private, but they’re really not.

    Social Media is our opportunity to interact with people all over the world, and that’s an incredible and fantastic thing… but Social Media’s also a minefield…

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