Social Media Flame Out Part II- What I learned.
The sharp eyed will notice that even the reasonably well composed tweets from Part I had a particular aspect to them – the “.” in front of the “@” removed all filters from the tweets. So instead of just blasting CVS I was blasting to all of my followers + CVS. This was actually intentional, because that is what I had seen done when people I admire on Twitter attempt to take down some offending part of The Man that has transgressed over their line in the sand. Make no mistake – I had that “on blast” as they say. Unashamedly so. A kind soul DM’ed me to inform me that I was doing that thing with the “.” and pissing off my followers. He reminded me to breathe, and at that point I realized that not only was I out there wild and uncontrolled on the internet I was effectively doing it wrong.
The ridiculousness of that moment grounded me more completely than any response from CVS could have. I didn’t accept right away that the battle was over – it took a few minutes of nervous-flutter clicking and half-seriously debating a complete retweet of all of them before I cleared the field in defeat, tweeted a funny picture about “Punk Being Dad” and vowed to not interact with Twitter for the rest of the day.
It was also here I remembered I’d been up periodically with a sick child the past three nights, that sleep deprivation and various feelings were probably contributing to the fact I was that aggravated. I decided to chuck the rest of the day as completely as I could and went to bed.
Two hours later I woke up with a start much like Dorothy did when her house landed in Oz. A sample of my internal monologue:
“That happened,” I thought to myself. “I made an ass of myself on that level in front of the world. This is why everyone hates social media! This is the end of me. I’m going to go on Twitter and there’s going to be a mocking hashtag of this event. My phone’s voicemail is going to be full. I bet someone at Gawker is preparing an expose article on how diabolically stupid I have been. No one will be talking about US Airways after this one.”
Lesson One: On social media, only the people who actually know you are going notice what you do.
Including the tweet from one of my co-workers, there were precisely four responses to my Scorched Earth Tweet Freakout of 2014.
1) @grizfisher favorited my response to his tweet.
2) A friend of mine responded with an emoticon to my later apologies.
3) The kind soul with the DM.
The tweets, though annoying, were about .001% of what was happening on twitter alone at that point. I lost precisely 1% of my followers which takes me back to the point I was over the weekend. It’s not that I don’t love that 1% and regret their loss, but it’s hardly the end of the world.
Everyone’s heard of things going viral – effectively what happens when your stupidity (or brilliance, the knife cuts both ways) hatches and grows wings. But there’s an extraordinary intersection of luck that contributes to that. You most likely have to be messing with the actual twitter account of a name brand business. It has to be sincerely offensive to at least one person, which was unlikely in the case of CVS. While my time on the internet has taught me that there is someone out there who will argue for anything and anyone at any time, militantly Pro-CVS twitter followers are going to be few and far between. I got lucky that whoever that was yesterday was out getting lunch when my time on their screen came up. And then finally, what you’re sharing needs to be actually be interesting enough to retweet and draw attention to. Your odds of becoming the next sensation are small.
But, lesson two is remarkably similar to lesson one.
Lesson Two: On social media, only the people who actually know you are going to notice what you do.
I have managed up until this point in my life to fly reasonably below the radar with my ability to fly off the handle under circumstances of extreme provocation. You have to basically live in my home or be my boss for an extended period of time before something like that will happen. And even then you’re pretty likely to agree with me in my own assessment of what went wrong. However. NOW PRETTY MUCH EVERYONE KNOWS. I have no ability to erase that whole episode and again, only people that I deal with in the real world are going to have noticed it. The Venn diagram of oops, while overlapping not terribly with the world’s major media outlets, overlaps amazingly well with people I’d rather not have got involved.
As we are only about 48 hours post-event I cannot say for sure whether this will have harmed anyone’s long-term impression of me enough to hurt my employability. I sincerely hope not, but there’s always a stray chance. I cannot say for sure, because I don’t read minds, whether I have altered anyone’s long term impression of me enough to sincerely change whether they’d want to do business with me. Again, I sincerely hope not. As that which is done cannot be undone unless you were using gmail, there’ll be that chance for quite a while. I will sit with that.
In the interim, let me reiterate what I said here:
Lesson Three: There are good people out there who don’t know you, and they’re watching out for you.
I trash talk the level of discourse on twitter at least once a day. Yet the truth is that the Kind Soul who tweeted me directly and told me to knock it off could have not done it. It was time out of his day, I was complete stranger, and there we were. But he did it anyway. That brings me to why I’m not swearing off social media completely and forever. Yesterday, someone looked out for me. Today, I looked out for someone else- in a different way but still as part of a community. For the moment I find the give and take of that process more valuable to me as a person – and in the long term to my brand – than total isolation.
P.S. I’m still waiting for a response from CVS. When it comes I imagine it will sound something like, “Well, now, I bet that hurt.”