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Social Media Warfare Hurts Everyone

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The accessibility of new age media today has made sharing every aspect of our lives as easy to do as clicking a mouse or hitting a button, and most of us embrace the variety of options and ease of use wholeheartedly. Students, teachers, employers, family, extended family, professionals and entrepreneurs celebrate the ability to connect and interact in an increasingly personal way. But is social media a playground, an office corridor, a boardroom, a retail storefront, or a battlefield in the making? And who is charged with making sure that the lines don’t get crossed? The answers are simple, really. It is all these things and more, and we are all charged with monitoring our own use – responsibly, ethically, honestly and fairly. We’re also responsible for how we respond when we witness social media being misused by others. 

There are all kinds of examples of abuse. As in the ‘real’ world, there are always a small number of people who will take advantage of the rest of us for their own benefit.  Unfortunately, the more forthcoming we are, the easier it is for perpetrators to find and target their next victims. It happens with teens. It happens when seniors are defrauded or identities stolen. And it happens in business when clients are mislead, contact information stolen and sold, or reputations attacked.

There are many things we can do to protect our identity, safety, and security on the Internet – most importantly being careful about what we put out there and who we allow access to that information. But unfortunately, it is not so easy to protect ourselves from malicious attacks or humiliation on social media, whether in our personal lives or our businesses. In one sense it is an extraordinary benefit that any of us can publish our thoughts publicly, but without a filter in place, people with mean-spirited, irresponsible or even criminal intentions can easily damage someone’s reputation or livelihood.

So, what should you do if you’re the victim of social network bullying?

1.    Stay Calm and Be Polite in your Response
Do not engage in a social media fight. This is the worst thing you can do. Losing control only adds more fuel to the fire and will result in additional unflattering exposure. On the other hand, a cool demeanor and honest, polite response will only make you look better. Invite the attacker to contact you for further discussion privately.

2.    Set the Record Straight

If there is something to apologize for, do it. If there is something that needs clarifying, do that too. If the attack is unwarranted and totally mean-spirited, provide an honest appraisal of the true story and try a little humour to put it behind you.

3.    Move on
Consider the source, and then let it go. It does not gratify your attacker to keep hounding you when you have already stated your case and moved on, so he/she will likely move on too, leaving you free to leverage the positive benefits of social networking.

Written by: Terri Plaxton Smith

Terri Plaxton-Smith is the Manager and Business Consultant at the Greater Barrie Business Enterprise Centre –

Bell Invest Barrie TD Canada Trust Barriston Law LLP Ontario Chamber of Commerce Canadian Chamber of Commerce Chamber Executives of Ontario