The Ugly Face of Social Media

30 Mar
2010

What I love most about social media is the speed with which you can meet, collaborate, build relationships with people who have the same passions as you, wherever they are in the world. I love the sense of community that some of us still feel, even though some of the communication platforms which we enjoyed for so long are getting crowded, losing the intimate feel, and getting overrun with spammers. I love how quickly social media mobilizes passionate people and moves them towards action.

But there are some things I really dislike, and they all stem from the fact that it’s easy to hide behind an anonymity that the web provides. Armed with a fake name and an anonymous avatar, some of us feel entitled to go over the top and say things we would never say to anyone face-to-face. We wouldn’t say those same things to anyone while endorsing it with our real names. But a fake name makes trolling OK, or does it?

In my job I’ve had a couple of run-ins with some unsavory characters. One of them went so far as to discredit me in front of my peers by posting degrading comments after each post and comment I made publicly. All of this was done with a fake name of course, although it wasn’t hard to figure out who it was.  Whatever issues this person had with me, (s)he wouldn’t have the guts to approach me and tell me the same thing in person. The situation escalated when this same person started posting on other sites, impersonating me, which is not only immoral but also illegal.

What prompted this post was today’s discovery (made with Biz360 monitoring platform, by the way), that a blogpost I had painstakingly written for the Biz360 blog (a two-part blogpost, in fact – part 1 and part 2) was unceremoniously cut and pasted into someone else’s blog. He did mention my name; however, no links to the original source were provided, and no disclaimer was made that this article was cross-posted from its original position. The way the post read, it can be misconstrued that I had partnered with this blog to write this article. A quick glanceover revealed quite a few cut and pasted posts. Which brings me to my next point: if you don’t have any original content to share, perhaps you shouldn’t blog? Referencing others’ work is completely OK, as long as you provide proper linkage, and some kind of original commentary around the subject. Just cutting and pasting into your own blogpost for SEO around certain keywords is not OK.

I am not really fretting about any of the above. I get it; this is what happens when you live life in public, share your thoughts constantly and are always on. These are the inescapable realities of the digital age and the types of jobs we hold. But is all of this really necessary? Because you may not get caught is not a good enough reason to pilfer content, in absence of good original ideas. Neither is it a good enough reason to bring a peer down in public. You  wouldn’t want someone doing it to you, would you?

I didn’t write this post to rant. I wrote this to bring awareness to the ugly side of the social web, and to see if there’s a way that we can encourage social responsibility. Each person now has a voice, on an unprecedented scale; would you want to use that voice for something positive or to bring someone down, just so you can bring yourself up. I wrote it so that we can all take an extra 30 seconds and think before we do something. Think before you do something shady online: “How would I feel if someone did this to me?” Because guess what? The golden rule still applies: do onto others.

Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/paullew/395233378/

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