Did you participate in the social media conversations about the U.S. presidential elections? Or did you just watch from the sidelines?
If you commented, I suspect you did so knowing that there’s always a risk associated with taking a stand. If you didn’t know that before you shared your position, I’m sure you found out quickly.
A social media case history
Take the case involving my publishing industry colleagues A and B. I like and respect and respect both of them.
I started paying more attention to Colleague A’s content when a post that wasn’t related to the election caught my eye. It was on her personal profile timeline, not her business Page, and the privacy setting was “public.” It was visible to anyone visiting her page.
What Colleague A shared was uncharacteristically confrontational. In the discussion that followed, she appeared to be cranky and close-minded — nothing like the person I know. A mutual acquaintance commented to me privately that she had unfriended Colleague A because of that discussion.
Uh-oh. Not good, right?
I wondered if Colleague A was struggling with something. I thought about calling to ask if everything was okay, but we are acquaintances, not good friends, and it was possible that my concern would be misinterpreted. So . . . I kept my thoughts to myself.
Her uncharacteristically dark mood continued with sarcastic pre-election posts. After the election, she commented about the results — and how some reacted to them — in a way that communicated that she was pleased with the outcome. She criticized those who stated their disappointment.
While her criticism didn’t disturb me, I was surprised by it. There seemed to be a disconnect from her usual cheerful, fun commentary. It felt like there were two social media personas posting on one Facebook account. The upbeat person who used to show up there had been replaced by someone who was sarcastic and angry. It was odd . . . and I started to wonder which persona best reflected the “real” Colleague A.
And as the “Deal with it!” postings continued, I thought, “This can’t be good for her business.”
And I was right.
Colleague B was offended by Colleague A’s post-election commentary and called her out on it, by name, in a response on her own timeline. She described Colleague A’s position and attitude accurately and explained her own views, and why she held them.
Some might say that Colleague A came across as a bully and Colleague B as a victim; others might say the opposite. But one thing is certain: Colleague B’s post generated an angry backlash against Colleague A.
I wasn’t surprised that Colleague A became a target, but she was.
She complained that Colleague B had aligned her with some of the negatives linked to the election victor and in doing that, Colleague A said, Colleague B was thoughtless and cruel.
In other words, Colleague B’s response was irresponsible.
Consequences of controversy
Colleague A had every right to post whatever she wanted on her Facebook timeline. I liked her honesty and as I read the comments on her posts, I could see that she had many like-minded connections.
But when you write something that will feel confrontational and antagonistic to others, you shouldn’t be surprised when someone who doesn’t agree with you responds to it. It’s a risk you take when expressing an opinion on Facebook or any other social platform, and you have to accept that risk. If you can’t, keep your opinions to yourself.
Are you glad the election is over? Let us know in a comment!
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