+David Meerman Scott wrote The New Rules of Marketing and PR, which is more than a book; it’s reality. It’s the future. It’s who we have become.
We can believe that each digital media is only a social platform where you hang out with your friends. We can throw a hissy fit every time Facebook or YouTube changes its algorithms. We can choose who we want to accept into each of our tight little circles.
Ignore the realities all you want.
Digital platforms, yes even Facebook and Twitter, are publishing platforms. You have access to this media only because the companies (you know, Zuckerberg and all the guys who own them) let you. Whether you privatize your settings or not, it is still a public forum. If anyone in your “friends” list can see your posts, that is a public post. It’s why we use direct messages and emails to have private one-on-one conversations.
You essentially rent a page from a public membership-based website for free. What you do with that page is up to you, unless it crosses any of the platform’s set boundaries. You can bitch all you want about the platform doing this or not doing that, but you don’t own it. You rent a small one-billionth of a space for free.
The page you have rented, depending on the platform, shows up in a Google search, even if your individual posts do not. That said, whether or not you’ve privatized your settings or if you only “friend” people you have met in person, your content can find its way to your employer’s desk, the government, and the police, if you’ve been especially naughty.
What you post on this free public platform is equal to publishing a page in the local (or rather international) newspaper. If it’s salacious enough to rankle enough feathers, make it a billboard on a Los Angeles or Toronto main thoroughfare.
There are people who are the Debbie Downers of social media. They publish hate, ugliness, and continually troll other people’s feeds with negative comments. They are in your private digital community. When you see their name in your home feed, your first reaction is to roll your eyes and maybe get ready to click the “hide” option before you’ve even seen the post.
You may like the person, but hate their post or comment. If they do it on your page, you may rent that page, but you determine what goes on that page. You have the right to delete.
In publishing, everyone is entitled to their opinion, even your friends. When that opinion isn’t constructive, is mean-spirited, or is just made because they don’t respect your opinion, you have the right to delete.
If you are the person who posts negative and mean-spirited comments, who continually fills their own feeds with it, is that really the permanent impression you want to leave on your public digital footprint?
I love Facebook’s On This Day, a look back at your previous posts through the years. It gives you a do-over. I go through them every day. If there is a post that no longer fits my present editorial guideline (post no harm) or something that is irrelevant, like the ongoing diatribe I used to make while watching football and hockey games, or dead website links, I will delete them and clean up my Timeline. Regardless of the platform, there are posts I re-evaluate, sometimes right after I’ve published them, and then delete them.
This is a website created for schools but a lot of adults could use a refresher course on how to act online (code word for “in public”).
The three things that each human craves are safety, belonging, and mattering. We can go a lot further as a human race and as role models if we practice exercising restraint and create a world that lifts our fellow friends and strangers up rather than tear them down. It begins one computer at a time.
When you are online, you write your history.