Jun 302014 5 Responses

Five Types of Social Media Jerks

If there were rules for how we should interact on social media (and there should be), rule number one would be: Don’t be a jerk. Social media jerks are the ones who turn the joys of social media—meeting new people, staying in touch with old friends, watching children grow, exploring new ideas, etc—into a near weekly nightmare where we want to throw our computers across the room and never talk to anyone else again. (Am I the only one who feels that way? Probably not.)

It’s predictable that there would be jerks online, but I doubt anyone ever knew the number of jerks we would face on a daily basis while simply trying to take a mental break by scrolling through our Twitter timeline or catching up with our Facebook friends.

Jerks are everywhere. (See: Three Steps to Liking Every Person You Meet)

And on occasion, we are one them. All of us will be jerks on occasion. We all make mistakes. How many times have I responded to something and later regretted it? I’ve private messaged more apologies than I care to mention.

On rare occasions we need to be jerks. We need to call people out for their racism, sexism, bigotry, arrogance, unfairness, and rudeness. This isn’t being a jerk, but the ones we call out will likely believe we are being jerks. In those cases, so be it. Sometimes this needs to happen. Most often this needs to happen when it is one of our friends or same-minded allies (political or religious) who is being unfair. We need to call out our own far more often than we call out an opponent.

Yet most of the time, social media jerks aren’t being mislabeled because they are speaking truth; most social media jerks are just being jerks. And it’s time to stop. (See: Like, What If Facebook Is Right?)

Here are Five Types of Social Media Jerks:

1. The “I’m just being funny” jerk. Some people respond to everything with humor. While I like humor as much as anyone, many times these people aren’t really funny. They are trying to be funny so they can have an excuse if someone calls them out for being a jerk. They write some passive aggressive comment and if someone dares bring up the falsehood or unkindness of their remark, they claim, “I’m just being funny.” But we say, “No you aren’t. You are just being a jerk trying to masquerade as a comedian who is succeeding at the former but failing at the latter.” I know humor is tough—trust me I know—and while some people will never get your humor, be careful not to use humor as a license to say mean, untrue, or hurtful things.

2. The “I’m never this way in real life” jerk. Have you noticed that some people will say things online that they would never say in person. It’s as if they have forgotten that everyone they are responding to online is an actual person. Somehow the absence of face to face interaction has turned this person from a cordial citizen to an all-out jerk. It’s an old cliché, but it’s true—if you wouldn’t say something to someone’s face, don’t write it online. We could even add, even if you would say something to someone’s face, be careful about saying it online. Everyone can see your comment which magnifies it far more than if it was one simple private interaction. Don’t allow social media to be a medium through which your inhibitions go away.

3. The political jerk. One person immediately comes to your mind. They doubt your love for America because of your political opinions. You disagree with them so everything in the country is your fault. They post every untrue story imaginable if it makes their political opponent look bad, and when a friend has the courage to point out the truth, they attack their friend or claim their opponent has probably done something even worse. The irony about the political jerk is that they often claim to be saving America but they are trying to do so in a way foreign to the democratic process. Instead of engaging in honest dialogue, they yell, scream, and hate to try and get their way. When an election doesn’t go their way, they assume votes were bought or voters were stupid or the election was rigged, instead of considering good, honest Americans disagreed with them. They are never wrong. They have no responsibility in the troubles of our country. And they are quick to blame their political opponents for everything.

4. The Jesus jerk. What some do with politics, others do with religion. Every post, tweet, or comment is a forum to communicate the immorality of others and the holiness of themselves. Every post is about religion and you get the feeling that every post of yours which isn’t about religion gets judged by them. (Personally, the jerk which frustrates me the most is the person who combines three and four. The political/Jesus jerk drives me insane.)

5. The jerk jerk. Let’s face it, some people are just jerks. Whether online or off-line, they can’t help themselves. Maybe they do not understand social interactions. Maybe their mental filter doesn’t work very well. Maybe they are deeply misunderstood or hurting in a deep way. But whatever the scenario, they are jerks in real life and so they are jerks online. To me, these are the most refreshing of the jerks because their is no hypocrisy about them. At least they are what they are whether online or off. While the previous four jerks can recognize their actions and change, those in the fifth category probably cannot. (See: A Sign of Doubt–why your co-worker screams his beliefs)

It’s not a high bar, but it is a bar we will all fail to jump on occasion. Don’t be a jerk is the most basic of online rules. Put it on a post-it note and place it near your computer. On occasion, open your timeline and review your posts and responses. Are you being a jerk? If so, apologize and stop it. Are others being jerks? If so, hide them or unfollow them.

Life is too short, don’t be a jerk and don’t let the jerks get to you.

For More, See:

Top 10 Communication Posts Your Co-Workers Should Read

My 5 Favorite Books

5 Responses to Five Types of Social Media Jerks
  1. […] But, social media can be bad. (See: Five Types of Social Media Jerks) […]... kevinathompson.com/dont-social-media-hypocrite
  2. Majetta Reply

    You’re so good, Kevin! Thanks for blogging – don’t stop, okay?

  3. […] Of course this viewpoint is wrong on two levels: (See: Five Types of Social Media Jerks) […]... kevinathompson.com/number-one-rule-disagreement

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