I originally posted the first part of this article in 2010 and I’ve added to it over the years. Social media snark has become much more pronounced over the years, so the earlier content I left in may seem tame. Even so, a lot of what happened to me back then still seems extreme.
It seems that snark and downright rudeness online will always be with us.
Sometimes more so than others.
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.
Maybe more of it is coming my way, as my social network rapidly 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. They’re apparently unaware of how much damage they do to their personal brands.
Twitter has long been prone to social media snark
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.
Snarky Twitter folks have attacked me
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 insulting tweets telling me to change my twitter handle (@MegGuiseppi) because my name is too weird and 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 blog waiting to be approved that disparage opinions of mine and demean me as a person. I choose not to approve and post them.
A highly-esteemed site posted an article that basically dissed those of us in the careers industry as dispensers of damaging job seeking advice. Then at the end of the post, they 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.
What to do when others attack you online
If you’re the victim of extremely bad behavior online, like bullying, hate speech, personal threats or other abuse, report and block those people.
This advice comes from meteorologist Emily Sutton, who has lots of experience dealing with a lesser form of snark: nasty remarks.
She “has racked up close to a decade’s worth of experience dealing with online rudeness. While the weather in her state (Oklahoma) sometimes turns nasty — it ranks third in the US in tornadoes — so too can the social media comments. Since Sutton is a woman in a public job, many of the derogatory tweets and posts focus on her looks, wardrobe or ability to do the job.”
Here’s her advice on how to deal with e-jerks:
- Shake it off
- Find people who know what you’re going through
- Respond with kindness or sincerity
- Stand your ground
- Try to empathize
- Give yourself a break
- When you can, share kindness online
In my own experience, this is the best strategy.
I post articles frequently on LinkedIn and, more often than I’d like, some people leave snarky comments.
At first, I find myself wanting to compose a biting response to set them straight, but instead I just delete their comments. It’s not worth the headaches and anxiety to incite further nasty comments from them. Best to put the flame out at the onset.
Women are on the receiving end of social media snark more often than men
Unfortunately, women (and mostly women of color) face disproportionate attacks online.
According to Nina Jankowicz, author of “How To Be A Woman Online”:
“The harassers online are quite creative in the ways that they harass women. But when my team at the Wilson Center sought to document some of the harassment during the 2020 presidential campaign, over a period of two months on six social media platforms, we found over 336,000 pieces of gendered or sexualized abuse and disinformation directed at just 10 U.S. candidates. And most of that was directed at then-vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris, 78% of it, in fact. So that’s just a short period of time, just a few platforms. And when you compare what women receive, as some of my colleagues have done in other organizations, with what their male counterparts receive, it’s just far and away much, much worse, especially if you’re a woman of color or a woman of an intersectional identity.”
What can happen when YOU post social media snark
Estee Lauder’s former executive group president, John Demsey, got way too busy on social media during the pandemic, in the wrong way.
For several years he voraciously posted provocative and sometimes insensitive videos, but mostly memes.
“But on Feb. 21, a Monday, Mr. Demsey posted something that cost him his job.
That day, he re-grammed a parody Sesame Street illustration with Big Bird wearing a doctor’s mask, standing bedside, tending to a sick and delirious Mr. Snuffleupagus. Above them a caption said: ‘My n***a Snuffy done got the ’rona at a Chingy concert.’
The post, with its asterisked version of a racial slur, did not go unnoticed by Estée Laundry, an anonymous Instagram account. Mr. Demsey soon deleted the post, but Estée Laundry (which now has about 200,000 followers) reposted it, with a caption that said “How’s it OK for a beauty executive (responsible for the branding and direction of a company that claims to focus on diversity and inclusion) to post this?” and asked if it was time for him to be let go.”
Demsey is one of many powerful executives in recent years who have lost their jobs because of inappropriate, snarky and sometimes racist statements on social media.
One of the many problems I see with making snarky comments on social media:
If you’re posting anywhere online other than an account of your own, you may not be able to get the post taken down, once (and if) you realize what a dope you were to post it in the first place.
And if people re-post your misdeed, it can spread exponentially and land all over the place in seconds. Before you can catch your breath, it’s out of control.
Do your part to avoid negativity on social media
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.