Thursday, May 12, 2011

King Solomon on Facebook and Twitter

Social media is both a blessing and curse. The advent of Facebook, Twitter, and the rise of blogging has led to much happiness for me and for others. I have been able to share my thoughts with friends, reconnect with old buddies, and look at pictures of their families. I have greatly enjoyed writing on my blog, receiving feedback from others, and I have a hard time imagining life without email.

But as with all technology, there are draw backs. After all, a glass bottle can be used to hold Coca-Cola or to knock a man in the head. A person that uses a knife must take care lest they cut themselves with it. So while social media are useful for relationships and education, they can also be a source of pain.

I have read stories of people who have lost their jobs due to posts on the internet about how they hate their jobs or co-workers. I have known of relationships damaged by a careless 'tweet' or Facebook update. While it should be obvious that we ought to be wise in what we put up for the world to see, the fact is that no one is always wise.

Consider then, this word from Solomon, "Do not take to heart all the things that people say, lest you hear your servant cursing you. Your heart knows that many times you have yourself cursed others" (Ecclesiastes 7:21-22). Many employers need to take this to heart, as do the owners of professional sports teams, and the head coaches of football programs.

If you are a person who has authority over others, and if you decide to "friend" or "follow" those over whom you have authority, then go into that knowing that you may be insulted by them. This is part of the folly of being human. We say things in moments of frustration that we regret. We all talk about aspects of our job that we hate or things about co-workers that annoy us. Mostly, we do this behind the back of others. But we do not always intend harm of it, and we rarely weigh the consequences of our words in such matters. Social media makes this type of foolish talk much easier to be "overheard."

So what should employers do when they look on Facebook and see a worker talking about how bad their job stinks or how cruel their boss is? Solomon says, "Ignore it, dude. You do the same thing." Consider this, "Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense" (Proverbs 19:11). Let it go. I roll my eyes when I hear of cases where student-athletes are banned from twitter over an insult to the coach, or when an employee is fired by griping about a surly boss.

What if the insult is grievous or harmful to the company or team morale? Then a visit, a personal visit might be in order. Sit down with the offender and say, "Look friend/employee/student, I know you are frustrated, but be wise with your words. They can hurt others. I saw what you put up on Facebook. I understand what you wrote, but remember that you represent others before you tweet or update your status, okay?"

Wouldn't everyone want a boss/friend/coach like that? So strive to be that person. Overlook offense, and remember that others are human, just like you.


Keith said...

So, did your champion do the right thing by parting ways with Rashard Mendenhal over the Osama tweet?

Brad Williams said...

Not really. It looks like more of publicity stunt to me. Did you know that Mendenhal was a Champion spokesperson? Would it have mattered to you if you did? Would you base your purchase of their products on his tweet?

It's silly. He clarified. He basically backed off his statement. They should have told him to be wiser in his public commentary.

Thanks for sharing that. It's exactly what I am talking about.