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Don’t Overreact to Your Social Media Mistakes

I recently wrote about Alex Payne, a developer for Twitter, who posted a tweet that caused a lot of contention among the Twitter developer community. Think Before You Tweet: The Do Not Tweet List.

Alex is not the first person to put his foot in his mouth on Twitter and he certainly won’t be the last. Because Twitter is so public and 140 characters is not enough to provide proper context, this will become the new normal.

Remember, we’re all human here. (unless you’re not for some reason)

Yesterday I read on GigaOm that Alex has decided to quit blogging, partly due to this most recent incident and partly because he had already been thinking about taking a break. I find his reasoning very poignant. (Emphasis is mine)

Lately, I’ve found the cathartic returns from blog-format writing to be diminishing. The ideas I’m trying to express never really get put to rest in my head when I write, now. Instead, they spark whole conversations that I never intended to start in the first place, conversations that leech precious time and energy while contributing precious little back. Negative responses I can slough off, but the sense that I’m not really crystallizing my unset thoughts by writing here is what bothers me.

This is an unfortunate response to a small blow up. It’s easy to overreact when something like this happens. For so many years social media has been a niche activity. No one but a bunch of geeks talking online. But sometime over the last few years social media quit being a back channel. If you’re a decent writer with interesting things to say, like Alex, then more and more people start paying attention. Pretty soon the random thoughts you’ve been writing down take on a life of their own and those thoughts beget conversations all on their own. This can be very intimidating.

Over the years we read about (seemingly) huge blowups that happen to other people and companies and it’s easy to talk about what they should have done differently. And then it happens to you. These fire drills are emotionally consuming and extremely stressful. No one wants to be “that guy.” I know because I’ve been that guy and was even written up for it.

But in the grand scheme of things these blow ups aren’t that big of a deal. They blow over and everyone moves on with things. Why? Because at the heart of things none of us is perfect and we all recognize that it could have been us. If we have learned anything from politicians, it’s that people are willing to forgive.

We all have our own reasons for blogging. Like Alex, I writing is part of my thinking process. The feedback I get from all of you help to formalize my ideas. Blogging is taxing and that may be the larger reason for Alex’s hiatus but it’s connection with this most recent mistake is unfortunate.

Last post I gave you 10 things to avoid tweeting, today I’m going to give you 3 things to do after it happens.

  1. Apologize for the mistake (or at the very least the misunderstanding).
  2. Clarify the statement (or action). Most mistakes are more miscommunication that an actual mistake.
  3. Move on. Don’t dwell on the mistake, instead reengage with the community and get back to having fun.

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Photo credit via Balakov

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About Tac

Social media anthropologist. Communications strategist. Business model junkie. Chief blogger here at New Comm Biz.

  • http://twitter.com/tedlsimon Ted L. Simon

    Two good posts, Tac (this and “think before you tweet”). In all the excitement and hullabaloo over social media, seems that many forget two basic tenets: common sense and perspective. Appreciate you highlighting the importance of both, especially in what seems to be a “fire…forget the aim or the ready” world.

  • http://www.newcommbiz.com tacanderson

    Social media needs a lot more common sense and perspective right now.

  • http://twitter.com/tedlsimon Ted L. Simon


  • rileybiz

    Alex Payne's mistake is exactly the reason I don't Twitter. How can you fully develop a thought or idea in 140 characters? A blog is the ideal format to communicate your message because generally you are not constrained in your responses. There are places for Twitter, but not in my universe. I hope Alex will reconsider his decision to quit blogging. With his background and experience, he has a lot to contribute to the blogsphere and we don't want to lose that.

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