By Amanda Fox
In social media, it matters who you are connected to. In social media, we tend to think in terms of numbers. How many likes and retweets or plusses we can get. What are the traffic numbers on our sites? We analyze the numbers within an inch of insanity. We even do it when it comes to how many followers, friends or connections we have. The thing is, we don’t tend to analyze the people that make up those numbers too closely.
Let’s be clear – I know some people in socmed that can tell you all about the demographics of their followers all the way down to the median level of education – but when it comes to who the individuals are – they’d struggle to be able to really tell you about all but the biggest names they are connected to usually. This is a problem. I know a lot of phenomenal people in socmed that would bend over backwards to help you. There are some that are bad and some that are despicable. That’s a reality in any massive community. It’s unavoidable that bad apples will be present.
The people we choose to connect to matters. Whenever we make someone a friend, it is an endorsement. It is making the conscious decision to push a button and basically say “I choose to align myself with this person.” A part of the problem in social media circles is that we often don’t really take a look at who that person is. We may look at the raw numbers and say “this person has 1,500 friends and we have 300 mutual friends, they are probably okay” and go off nothing more than that. Why? We’re thinking in terms of numbers.
Let’s pretend for a second you are throwing a party. You have a few hundred people in attendance. You have twenty people outside knocking at your door that want to join in. You don’t really know them, but someone else says one guy is okay. So you let him in and he vouches for several more waiting outside and they vouch for the rest and before you know it – 20 people you don’t know are in YOUR HOME.
One of those guys starts getting out of control a little and making others uncomfortable. You’re about to toss him until someone reminds you he’s a star quarterback a county over and a good guy to be “in” with, so you let him stay even though people you know that were already there are skiddish. Then, someone reminds you that someone you invited, who hasn’t arrived yet, is a registered sex offender and maybe another had emotionally abused/manipulated a friend of yours at the party. What if one of them even stalked one or more of your guests? Would you still invite them in or rescind that offer? The vast majority of decent people would rescind the offer. What kind of person would choose to accommodate an abusive person at the expense of their victim?
Now let’s look at it this way. Suppose, for a second, your Facebook friends represent a party. A social media party. Are you paying the same attention to who you invite in? If you know, 100% know, you have someone in your circles that did incredibly awful things to another person you have at your FB party, are you going to send that person home who was horrible to other partygoers, or are you going to say it doesn’t concern you and is a separate issue and party on?
Here’s the harsh reality of it. Because inviting someone into your virtual home is far different from your physical home, far too many people take the stance that whatever someone did somewhere else is not their concern. They don’t look at associating to individual people as a friend or social circle member as being an endorsement of that person, but merely some sort of undefined virtual connection.
I even have people that are very good friends who still chum around with and stay connected to people that did horrible things to me that went beyond online damage, but they often stay connected because the horrible thing didn’t happen to them or because a connection is a connection or whatever lame reason they have. They say “it isn’t endorsing their behavior, just that, well . . . ya know . . . they’re okay to me”, even if they are terrible to other people. Make any excuse you want, but when we knowingly align ourselves with people we know are intentionally hurting our friends, or anyone really, we are no different than they are. In some ways, it’s even even worse. It’s saying the victim, basic human decency and your own reputation (because you choose to associate with known abusers) matters less than keeping those social numbers up.
Listen . . . we aren’t saying you have to run a full BCI check on everyone you connect to. What we are saying, however, is put some thought into who you associate yourself to instead of thinking in terms of people as numbers. If you wouldn’t talk to someone for a few minutes if you met on them on the street, why would you associate yourself to them online? If it’s just because they might do something for you, you’re doing it wrong. If it’s just to get along, go along because everyone else is doing it – you’re doing it wrong. If it’s just because you want to pretend no one ever does bad things, you need to grow up.
Furthermore, when you know someone you are associated to online is doing some awful things to people whether it be playing emotional games with them, spreading horrible rumors, bullying or whatever it is, step back and ask yourself these questions:
- If they treated me or one of my family members like this – would I still call them a friend?
- If I saw someone acting like this IRL at a party, restaurant or wherever – would I sit down next to them and act like nothing was wrong?
If you answered no to those questions, then why in the world would you tolerate it online? Why would you knowingly sit down at the virtual table with this person and allow your face and name to show up on their walls, feeds or whatever as someone that is a FRIEND of this person? Think about it and then think about who you are endorsing by being their “friend”, what they stand for, how they treat people and whether or not you want to be party to that.
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