The new social media environment is rich in opportunities to connect, communicate, create a sense of community and, occasionally, to produce the odd awkward moment. As a marketing communications practitioner, however, I had no choice but to dive into the social media maelstrom.
I admit I did hesitate at first, not because I am averse to new things, but because I could not know the ramifications of putting myself out there on the Internet. If I had known then what I know now, I would have done it anyway, but at least I’d have an idea of what to expect.
Yesterday, out of the blue I received an e-mail from a guy who is a contact on LinkedIn. He asked me to “endorse” him. When I clicked the link, it took me to the page where you can post a recommendation for a contact on LinkedIn. Recommendations are important on LinkedIn because they enable you to be listed in business directories, which enhances your business networking possibilities, and the more you have, the higher you’re ranked.
Now I would gladly recommend someone I know well, but I don’t really know this guy at all. We worked together at a the same company in 1992 in different departments. We have both changed jobs since then and have had no contact whatsoever. And now he wants me to recommend him? For what? Based on what?
After a moment’s reflection, I wrote him back explaining that I didn’t feel qualified to recommend him since I don’t really know him and it’s been 16 years since I even said good morning to him at the water cooler. He seemed disappointed: “OK. Thanks for the response anyway. I hope you are well.”
Perhaps if he had established a basis for my recommending him, or at least reached out and asked after my well being before he hit me up for a recommendation, I might have been more receptive rather than just kind of creeped out.
Then there’s the former girlfriend from my college days who friended me on Facebook. I figured that it had been a sufficient number of decades ago and she lives half a continent away, we’re both happily married to other people, so what’s the harm?
She apparently has more time on her hands than I do because she keeps sending me virtual plants for my little green patch and asking me to send her back a plant for her little green patch so we can together end global warming. I kid you not, this is apparently something someone cooked up on Facebook.
So I ignore her requests for little green plants and I refuse to accept the kittens she tries to send me to save animals, and basically I’m thinking of unfriending her altogether if she doesn’t get the message.
Then there’s my dead friend on Facebook. Well, he’s not really a friend, more of a business acquaintance, but he is definitely dead and he’s still in my friends list months after he croaked. What’s the proper etiquette in this case? Unfriending him seems rather callous and not quite right, but still, he’s haunting my Facebook page and I’m afraid he might give me a poke from the Great Beyond.
Apparently it’s common for survivors to leave up a dead person’s Facebook page as a way to remember them. Facebook has responded by creating a special area — a kind of virtual Forest Lawn Cemetery — as a repository for dead folks’ pages. I suppose I’ll just leave him on my friends list until his family sends his page to its final resting place.
These three situations are novel in my experience. Indeed, they probably would not have even occurred before the advent of the social media revolution. I guess some loser ex-associate could have asked for a recommendation letter, but it seems unlikely. And I guess an old girlfriend could have tried to give me a real plant or kitten, but I doubt she would drive 1,200 miles to do it. And the ghostly presence on my Facebook page is a totally otherworldly experience.
I’m sure as I continue working and experimenting in the social media realm more moments lie these will arise. It’s inevitable, because social media is changing the way we communicate with and relate to one another in this novel online milieu. If only they weren’t so … uncomfortable.
Have you had an uncomfortable social media moment you’d like to share? If so, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.