Conflict on Social Media – by Matt Wood
Early in my public relations career, I attended a seminar on Facebook. It was a session meant for local northern B.C. public relations/communications practitioners, many of whom I knew.
The presenter was also a colleague, so it was a room in which I felt comfortable; what followed was decidedly not.
The presenter had scoured each of the attendees’ Facebook pages and found some highly entertaining stuff. There, at the front of the room on a BIG screen, was a tremendous shot of me at a watering hole doing my best Pete Townsend arm swing at a karaoke bar, tie flying askew to my side. Other memorable photos showed my colleagues peeking out from behind beer bottles, dancing at the bar etc. The problem? These were taken after the last night of a conference (that my employer had paid for) and the presenter pointed out that our employers may not want to see us in such a light, even though it was after hours, post-conference.
To this day I meet people who maintain that their “personal” social media account is not representative of who they are at work. I follow a different rule; my social media presence is representative of all facets of who I am as a person. I’m representing myself, my family, my employer, my profession, my colleagues – the list goes on.
Why? Well there’s this trend online right now, something I call rabid polarization. It’s not enough for people to simply disagree in the online sphere. It’s become “you’re either with me, or you’re against me, and if you’re against me, I hate you.”
My general rule is if I don’t want to see it on the front page of the paper, don’t put it on social media. I stay out of politics and other hot-topic debates on my social media. I’m not avoiding conflict. I’m avoiding unhealthy conflict, and there’s a big difference.
I can tell you, after that Facebook seminar, I’ve been a LOT more cautious about what I post. My feed is largely a collection of posts about my kids, Star Wars, UNBC stories, the Prince George Symphony (specifically how great the tuba part is), and superheroes (Spider-Man is the best and I’m not going to argue with you).
I’m not prepared to get into meaningless word wars on social media. I’m going to embrace conflict and attempt to live a life that effects change on a bigger scale, where it matters.
And for me, that’s not online.