What we can learn from blog firestorms.

Interesting, isn’t it?

Social media can be such a fantastic place – full of thoughtful, intelligent people.  Fun people. So thoughtful, fun and intelligent that its easy to imagine the whole world is cheering you on. Its easy to imagine that the social sphere or your blog are simply just an adult playground of cool people.  THEN it happens: SLAM BAM a snarky comment or worse, an outright attack. Suddenly, the social sphere doesn’t seem so warm and fuzzy.

I’ve been watching closely as over the last couple of weeks two incidents on different blogs have caused an outright fury in the blogosphere, dividing a typically supportive group (bloggers) on different sides of the fence. What’s interesting is in both cases, first by Gini Deitrich on her blog Spin Sucks and then by Neicole Crepeau on Danny Brown’s blog, both bloggers handled the fury with grace and elegance. I really admire them both. Watching the implosion over the last few weeks has really given me pause to think on a couple of different elements: 1) manners 2) leadership 3) stay’n classy.

So if you’re a blogger or any kind of social media participant, whether for a corporate space or for yourself, what can you learn from these two ladies?

First Rule of Fight Club is Not To Talk About Fight Club

First thing to understand about blogging and social media in general is that it is the ultimate in free speech, while we don’t like to talk about the downside of free speech, there are definitely a few. It isn’t worth giving up the benefits of free speech for the alternative and so it is with blogging and social media. We don’t spend a lot of time TALKING about it, but that’s because the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages.

But, one thing we’ve all got to understand is that once in a while people will disagree with us and we can not control the level of vitriol with which they do it. We can only control our own responses.

The second thing to understand is that criticism probably means more to you than the person who gave it, but if we take the critism and learn from it, then ultimately, we’re better writers, communicators and (most importantly) people.

Finally, when we go out on a limb, people are probably going to disagree with us and we’ve got to be OK with that fact.

Now with those understandings under our belts, what about those three things: 1) manners 2) leadership 3)stay’n classy.

Leadership: Much can be learned about leadership -  on both sides of the coin. You might be surprised to learn that those you thought were leaders aren’t really leaders at all…and that you may be a better leader than you thought.

  • True leaders don’t resort to personal attacks. They don’t have to. Their ideas and actions speak for them, they don’t need to make anyone else seem smaller in an effort to seem bigger.
  • True leaders find ways to support others, even when it doesn’t directly benefit them.
  • True leaders can accept criticism, learn from it and get on with their day. Leaders can learn from it or decide its irrelevant, but they rarely let it keep them awake at night..UNLESS the opportunity presents itself to make them better professionals or people and then they REALLY go to town.
  • True leaders stand tall. If you believe you were right – stick to it and agree to disagree. Don’t be bullied into submission just because the bully is someone who has a larger following, a book, or whatever.   It might be hard, but that blog post too shall pass.
  • True leaders know: at the end of the day, there really is only one person you answer to, and that’s you.
  • True leaders go out on a limb sometimes. They go cutting edge. They have opinions.
  • True leaders accept the opinions of others with grace..even when the opinion differs from their own.

Manners: If your going to comment in social media or write a blog, go ahead and set some ground rules of engagement for yourself.

  • If you believe you were wrong, say so and thank the person for making their point and opening your eyes.
  • No name calling, OK? Just be a grown up…or at least a kindergartener, which is where I personally first learned not to call someone a mean or demeaning name.
  • Say thanks to everyone – even those you disagree with.
  • Have a sense of humor. Don’t take everything personally and learn that its OK to laugh at yourself.

Stay’n Classy: Sometimes, Mom was right. Just admit it.

  • You don’t need to respond gun’s a’blazing. Even when someone attacks you personally, don’t be lulled into their game. You can defend your point in an intelligent way.
  • Don’t over react.  As scary as it feels to be at the receiving end of a firestorm, take a deep breath before you respond.
  • Its OK to moderate. When its your blog, its OK to ask people to calm down or explain that this blog has gone down a rabbit hole you never saw coming.
  • Assume the best of people. Assume someone is having a bad day. Assume they didn’t mean it the way it sounded. Assume they didn’t know you’re feelings would be hurt.

I can’t even claim that this list is complete or even final. One thing that Neicole and Gini did so right was follow their inner guts. It isn’t always easy, but they did so with grace and elegance, I think they set the bar for dealing with blog firestorms. Kudos to you both!

So, have you ever had a comment or blog post blow up on you? What lessons did you learn and what would you do differently? Oh, and if you disagree with this post..go ahead and say so!

photo: creative commons by rob_moody