Stoning our Fellow Bloggers

There is a danger to being a blogger – the same danger experienced by all public figures. Your every mistake is magnified, and that means you may end up with a target on your chest.

Yesterday, a well-known blogger made a posting that was quite controversial. Suffice it to say that some of the reaction was downright nasty. I am not going to link to the post in question, or mention the blogger’s name, or even describe the controversy, because I really don’t want to call any further attention to it.  Instead, I’d like to draw some larger lessons from the incident.

Here’s the main thing: we’re all going to make missteps. We’re human; we say and do things we shouldn’t; we occasionally react in the heat of the moment; and sometimes, we make the wrong call when trying to counter-balance competing interests. And in the age of instant publishing and networked communications, our fallibility can be magnified rather rapidly.

Before you hit that “Publish” button with a comment or a post ripping up a fellow blogger, let me recommend that you pause and consider the following:

  1. Have you ever made a mistake? Have you ever written or said something you wish later you could modify?
  2. Has this person for whom you are sharpening the knife actually been, by-and-large, a value provider? Can you couch your statements in that light?
  3. Do you think this fellow blogger might really need another public kick while he/she is down, or would perhaps a quiet back-channel word of encouragement be more helpful, along with a gentle expression of your concern for the specific action?
  4. Are you prepared to be treated in the way you treat this fellow blogger when your foibles are publicly revealed?

For the most part, the social networking crowd is a sharing and generous community. However, we need to be careful not to shoot our own when we make our mistakes and show our humanity. We don’t need an overly-hysterical “Motrin” reaction when people, companies, and brands try to put their toe in the water and get it wrong. A sense of humility is far more winsome than a self-righteous judgment on all those who don’t meet our standards. And, again, before you press “Publish” – if you’re about to pass judgment on someone’s character or motives, ask yourself if you really know that person’s heart.

“Let him who is without sin cast the first stone,” said a great teacher from centuries ago. Do we serve as correctives to one another as we evolve in social networking? Sure. But it’s far less important to prove that you are right and someone else is wrong, than it is to display a generous and gracious spirit when your fellow blogger is down.

It might just be you next time.

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About Steve Woodruff
Steve Woodruff is a blogger, a Connection Agent, and a consultant in the pharma/healthcare industry. He specializes in helping people and companies make mutually beneficial connections.

10 Responses to Stoning our Fellow Bloggers

  1. Fritz says:

    Some blogs seem to encourage camaraderie and friendship and polite comment, and there are others where snark rules the day. Personal blogs seem to do well with polite conversation. On my own blog, for example, even when I write something stupid or controversial there’s disagreement, but the disagreement is written politely. There’s no name calling.

    Newspapers and YouTube seem to attract every kind of malcontent out there — I no longer read the comments on those sites.

  2. Thanks for this timely reminder Steve. I’m often amazed at how social media in general tends to attract the negative so much more than the postive (although Twitter tends to be the exception – wonder why?).

    As bloggers, thought leaders, and contributors to social media ourselves, we can help set the bar high be keeping our posts — and our comments — on the positive, productive side.

  3. Steve Mullen says:

    I missed the blog post and reaction you’re talking about, but unfortunately this sort of reaction to a slight (real or not) or a mistake is simply a factor of the perceived unanimity of online life. It’s been going on since the old dial-in BBS days. People are more bold when they’re typing in front of a screen than they are in “real life”. I guarantee the vast majority of the people who flamed the blogger in question would never do that face-to-face.

    Steve Mullen
    EndGame Public Relations, LLC

  4. Amybeth says:

    My mom taught me in my tender years “You praise in public and correct in private”. Sometimes it’s not possible but whenever it is, these are good rules to live by. Nice JC reference there too Steve – what a wise man He was :)

    • sunflower71 says:

      I love your mom’s teaching…. Thanks for sharing it… I’m going to adopt it in my family and pass it on to my kids. It makes so much sense and can prevent so many problems.

  5. Janica says:

    I think this is particularly important as new people are starting to dip their toe into social media. It is often a challenge for newbies to figure out what is generally accepted and what would be considered a major breach of the standard culture. When they see someone being personally slammed it makes that fear of unintended mis-steps much greater.

  6. Kevin Fenton says:

    Thoughtful post, in both senses of the word. I have been guilty of both posting rashly and commenting meanly. Per the earlier comment, my best rule is a) physically walk away from the computer before I hit “send” and b) pretend the person I disagree with is in the room.

  7. compliancebranding says:

    Thanks for saying this Steve. It’s a great point. I’ve been criticized from time to time, but nothing stupid. BUT, I do see it out there and frankly I feel sorry for the critic. Especially if they offer up no solutions.

  8. Hey Steve-

    Some very nice points, not just for bloggers, but for everyone we come across. As a psychologist, I notice a tendency to come down harshly on others when there is (1) jealousy, (2) lack of self-confidence and/or (3) heightened stress. As a result, I recommend to my clients (as well as myself) that when you feel angered by a similar situation when someone messed up but did not hurt anyone (as I am assuming is the case here), you take a deep breath and figure out what is going on inside of you before you open your mouth or allow your fingers to communicate on the key pad.

  9. sunflower71 says:

    Very good post Steve.
    I think in general we are still learning how to ‘use’ these new media. Everyone seems to be learning by doing… at least this is what it seems to me. This in itself means making mistakes but also, hopefully, learning from them. One downside that I see might take longer to seep in is that the immediacy of how things happen on line make things seem real… but there is a very strong virtual element to it espeically in written communication…. the ‘traditional’ message carriers are missing…. facial expressions, tone of voice, plus if the language used is a second language for the person writing.

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