I am going through the awkward process of learning the language and etiquette of social media. While I have always been an early technology adopter, I've never been much of a social adopter. I am by nature a private person... mostly because I prefer quiet environments and quiet people.
Having built the foundation for a digital publishing company over the last year, I've been thrust head first into developing the outreach part of our business. That means reaching out on social media platforms. These are things I've never dealt with and for the most part am not that skilled at.
I remember once when I was in France working on a movie, there was an American at a restaurant pointing at the menu and asking the waiter in a voice that was near screaming... "Is this beef? Is this beef?"
Alas my compatriot was a stranger in a stranger land. He knew what he wanted to say, he just didn't know how to say it. He was insensitive to his environment and as a result he was unable to interact within it skillfully, effectively, peacefully.
My heart went out to the now entrenched and entangled pair, but more so to the waiter. I knew he spoke some English but he was refusing to engage the rude "foreigner". The two were at war. A meal of hostilities ensued and a just dessert was served. (L'addition sans tip). A less than tasteful exchange for everyone involved.
Meanwhile, my experience of the restaurant and its service was quite different. I spoke enough French to honor the waiter. He spoke enough English to be funny. I always loved dining there. The food was fabulous and the wine list was to die for. It was everything an American in Paris could ever want. There were many nights I stayed until the place closed and stumbled back to the hotel drenched in laughter and drunk on freely poured Saint Émilion.
There are parallels here for sure. Social Media is an invisible frontier. It's the strangest of strange lands. It is an ever-fluid ocean with cultural currents and psychological continents that are always evolving. The language of that place is a skill that is hard to come by for most. Very few do it well and many do it badly. I openly include myself in the latter.
Social Media is Niagara Falls everywhere all at once. The current is moving 1000 mph and you can easily fall off and drown. The velocity of messaging is so fast and furious; it is at all times a deafening noise of chatter, churn and cackle. How then, do we communicate something of value?
What do you say? How do you say it? When do you say it and where do you say what?
A tweet, an email, a comment, a post all have very different tunings. It takes a lot of sensitivity and skill to align your communication intentions with the forms and formats of all of these various channels. What you say and how you say it has to be tailored to the place where you are saying it and to the person or persons you are saying it to. Fundamentally it’s about talking with people as people.
If you want to know what can go wrong, let me tell you that you haven't really lived until you've seen your first twitter fight. More often than not 140 characters is too much.
Within a few short weeks of blindly wondering into to the social-sphere- I've bumped up against all of my communication shortcomings. It’s painful, embarrassing and potentially harmful to my business. I have to absorb these early experiences as nourishment for my growth. I want to improve. I want to grow and in order to do so I have to set all the reactivity of my self-criticism aside.
I want to learn how to be a better digital citizen.
Note to self: slow down, talk don't scream, less is more pleasant, remember that everything I am attempting to say is connected to a real person, be polite and be conversational, most importantly be authentic and be willing to learn, even if it means having to apologize. If someone with 18 million twitter followers can blow it, everyone can and probably will.
There is no failure. There is only experience. Be kind within yourself.
I am going to see if I can find the digital equivalent of Clearasil and hide in my room for the night.