How to Lose Friends and Alienate People with Social Media

by Meg Guiseppi on July 27, 2010

With acknowledgment to Irving Tressler, who wrote his parody of Dale Carnegie’s famous “How to Win Friends and Influence People“, both published in 1937.

Snarkiness and downright rudeness seem to be on the rise across social media.

Maybe more of it is coming my way, as my social network expands. Maybe I’m too sensitive to it. Or maybe, because their voices are usually the loudest and most aggressive ones, they reverberate and dig at me more.

I’m talking about the lack of common courtesy and manners, and people spewing hurtful epithets and vitriol, instead of making life more pleasant as we all muddle through our daily challenges.

Why do people feel it’s their right to publish negative content about people they don’t like and possibly don’t even know, with no regard for how their words impact that person – internally and in their perception to the external world?

Is it naive to expect kindness over nastiness on these public platforms? Is it too much to hope that people have learned and practice what is second nature to many of us – “If you have nothing nice to say about someone, say nothing”?

I like to think that eventually their passion for sniping about others will come back to bite them, but comeuppance may not ruffle them at all, or cause them to rethink the way they operate. Maybe they purposefully mean to brand themselves as snide, thoughtless people.

The thing is, many, many people are giddy about aligning themselves with these proponents of negativity, and happily jump on their brandwagons. The more their bad behavior is reinforced, the more they’re encouraged to be snarkier still.

With its conversational chumminess, Twitter especially is riddled with mean-spirited and, frankly, tiresome remarks excused by the perpetrators who forewarn us in their Twitter bios that “I tell it like it is. If you don’t like it, don’t follow me”, or similar words.

Well of course, on Twitter you can un-follow anyone you want to, but these rants against you will still pop up in your @username mentions. And plenty of other people out there are reading this stuff about you.

I’ve gotten Twitter mentions referring to blog posts of mine, stating that my opinions were flat out wrong. I foolishly tried defending my stance in the past, but no more.

I’ve received tweets telling me to change my twitter handle (@MegGuiseppi) because my name is too hard to spell.

Someone I don’t know on Twitter published a tweet accusing me of misusing the word “executive”. What? I’ve been working with executives (my client base) for over 20 years. I think I know who they are and how to use the word properly. And even if I didn’t, who asked you, and why tell the world?

There are Twitter people passing judgement and tw(outing) people who have photos they don’t like.

I have a few blog comments on my Executive Resume Branding blog waiting to be approved that disparage opinions of mine and demean me as a person. I choose not to approve and post them.

I read a blog post recently on a highly-esteemed site that basically dissed career coaches as dispensers of damaging job seeking advice, and then at the end of the post, dug the knife in by daring any of us in the profession to rebut. The author was clearly looking to boost her blog comments, and delighted in the repercussions she hoped she’d set in motion.

In my world, Dale Carnegie’s core principles should always hold true – for real-life and virtual interaction:

  • Don’t criticize, condemn, or complain.
  • Give honest and sincere appreciation.
  • Arouse in the other person an eager want.
  • Make the other person feel important and do it sincerely.
  • Show respect for the other person’s opinions. Never tell someone they are wrong.
  • If you’re wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically.
  • Appeal to noble motives.

Related posts:

Social Media Spins Too Fast

14 Reasons I Won’t Follow You On Twitter [Revisited]

LinkedIn Helps You Find the Right Twitter People to Follow

You’re a C-level Executive Job Seeker and You’re NOT Blogging?

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Meg Guiseppi August 10, 2010 at 8:16 am

Hi Kathy,

How kind of you to say such nice things about my writing. I’m so glad it’s been helpful to you. Thanks for making my day!

Isn’t it a shame that some people embrace negativity so exclusively and, as you say, are “encapsulated within their own limited box”? I suppose some will not suffer from this kind of MO, but I’m sure some will live to regret it later, if they see the light in the future. Then it’s too late — all that nastiness lives forever on the Web.

Thank you again for brightening my day!


2 Kathy Aguiar August 10, 2010 at 1:58 am


I have learned so much from you by reading your writings. And I continued to do so by reading this one. Your work is cutting-edge!

I think those that are negative may want to run a bit faster to catch up with you or just stay behind encapsulated within their own limited box.

In the meantime, I will be sharpening my pencil and taking notes from one who has helped so many.

Thank you Meg…for so freely sharing you,

Kathy Aguiar, State of Rhode Island, Department of Labor & Training, netWORKri, @ AHIRECOACH on Twitter

3 Meg Guiseppi July 28, 2010 at 7:58 am

Hey Daulton,

So nice of you to drop by and comment.

I think it’s too easy (and terribly thoughtless) to use social media as a sounding board, as you say, to air personal attacks. There is cowardice in that approach to problem-solving.

Please know how very much I appreciate your continued support with retweets and mentions in your terrific Examiner articles. It’s so gratifying to be acknowledged by my peers, but especially by someone of your caliber.

Keep up your excellent writing and tweeting!

4 Meg Guiseppi July 28, 2010 at 7:55 am

Chris, thanks so much for your thoughtful comments.

Of course, the problem with loud mouths online is that their words never die. They continue to get under the skin of whomever they were aimed at. On the other hand, because online content doesn’t go away, it can boomerang back and bite the perpetrator.

I think the motivation for some of these people may be the thrill of setting a chain reaction in motion, and watching it unfold online. Kind of pitiful, if you ask me.

By the way, congratulations on starting your own blog. You’re a wonderful writer. I’m sure you have lots to say. Hope you’ll come to love blogging as much as I do!

5 Daulton West, Jr. July 27, 2010 at 5:50 pm


Great post!

In the matter of social netiquette, I have shared some ‘best practice’ tips via my Examiner articles that basically encourage people to take the high road, and be careful about posting any negative comments or personal attacks against people or companies.

The internet is permanent – and any mean-spirited, vicious comments can come back to haunt an individual and permanently damage a person’s brand. (Google Alerts can be set up to monitor what is said about someone. People have even lost job opportunities because an irresponsible comment on Twitter reached a hiring manager’s attention, and the job offer was canceled)

Put another way – play nice. Everyone has problems at times, but most of us don’t want to see other’s “dirty laundry” given internet air play. Social media should not be used as a personal sounding board to air personal attacks or inappropriate comments at others. As my Mother often said, “If you can’t say anything nice about someone, then don’t say anything at all.”

For those dissing career coaches as dispensers of damaging job seeking advice, I could not DISAGREE more. I have found your resume, job seeker, and career advice to be extremely helpful to me and others in career transition.

I have often shared your many quality blog posts, career tools, and tips with other job seekers, networking groups, and quoted you frequently in my Richmond Social Media Examiner articles — and I will continue to do so.

Career coaches are industry leaders and valuable assets to the job seeker community, whose time and effort to research and share their expertise should be appreciated and welcomed.

– Daulton West, aka ASocialMediaChampion4U; @DWestJr on Twitter

6 Chris Havrilla July 27, 2010 at 5:03 pm

Great and thought-provoking post!

While I believe there is an enormous amount that can be gained from diverse/differing opinions — even disagreements — it helps when it’s in the form of discussions, real time or online, with an attempt to learn and understand or to share different perspectives.

The online world, like the real world, has kind-hearted people and mean-spirited people, people that choose to stay in the background, while others shout loud and proud — and amazingly enough, cliques even form here too. And instead of these social phenoms being limited to a workplace, school yard, neighborhood, or playing field — it is available for the whole world to see and search.

For me, it is hard to understand the gain or the motivation of some who would prefer to publicly embarrass or judge (versus starting a constructive dialogue, privately pointing out an error and allowing someone to correct, making a helpful suggestion, etc.) — or just stereotyping people or professions without regard to what differentiates individuals.

You keep adding value to those around you and to those who come to you for your assistance and nothing anyone can say or write can change that :)

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