While having two teenage boys is an absolute privilege, it inevitably brings occasional challenges too. Like we all do, our junior team have some ups and downs and need guidance and support along the way. The other evening, as we were chatting light heartedly about their occasional mood swings, I was reminded of the opening scene in the Adam Sandler/Jack Nicholson film Anger Management, where Sandler is unintentionally sucked into a spiralling confrontation with a flight attendant.
At the start he is only asking for a set of headphones and yet, influenced in part by the encouragement of fellow passenger Jack Nicholson, the situation soon escalates via a series of misunderstandings. I showed it to my boys as a fun example of how seemingly benign situations sometimes escalate beyond all expectations.
This morning I happened to be waking up in a hotel room and, as I normally do, I lay in bed flicking through bits of news on my iPad before heading for breakfast. I don’t personally think this is a healthy start to my day and yet I am drawn to do it almost every morning. Are there any messages I need to respond to and is there anything of interest on my Twitter, Instagram and Facebook feeds?
I certainly keep tabs on social media but, for various reasons, I rarely stick my head above the parapet publicly on more controversial issues. First and foremost this is because I don’t want myself or my businesses to fall foul of negative comments. I know that things I write will be viewed widely and, if then also shared by others, wider still.
Within seconds of posting something to our social media feeds over 10,000 people can see it and anything added to our website will generate tens of thousands more views - something I still find quite incredible for our little businesses. Of course, this is still relatively small fry, but it is still significant and certainly something that wouldn’t have been possible just a few years ago.
Another reason for generally not being controversial or overly negative on our website or social media is because I want our businesses to be centred around positivity and fun - I don’t want to promote negativity although I certainly see that, as we have the potential to air issues of interest to mountain goers, we should also be willing to highlight or tackle difficult subjects sometimes.
The other significant reason I don’t write much about these type of things, though, is that I still sometimes struggle with the way social media is changing our world. As a business we have tried to cultivate a social media following and it has definitely benefited us. Similarly, on an individual basis, Facebook allows me to stay in touch with friends and I love many of the inspirational posts shared. It is also a great place to share information and opportunities.
So on balance I believe our new social media obsessed world is generally a place of positivity, although it can also be a place where strong opinions sometimes get aired and negativity can shine through. It is also, of course, a medium that has changed the way the world communicates. In his short time in office, for one example, Donald Trump seems to have favoured tweeting over many other forms of communication and he now even shares significant policy decisions or disputes with other world leaders this way. Similarly, You Tube has created multi millionaire celebrity Vloggers just as Facebook and Instagram continue to grow in dominance. Nothing is free from scrutiny nowadays and these online options are so new that we face an ever evolving picture - the goalposts keep getter wider and we seem to have no referee.
In truth though, another reason I don’t say too much is also down to an early lesson I received in how difficult it can be to anticipate the reactions one might receive. It wasn't social media as much as online media, but in 2011 I wrote an article about scrambling equipment for UKClimbing (UKC). I thought it was quite a reasoned and informative piece but I was soon to realise, via the comments posted, that others thought it rather flawed. After its publication I read the growing number of comments and, while I remember feeling shocked and disappointed, I also realised that some of the comments were justified.
People had found flaws that I didn’t anticipate - largely around the cost of some of the items I had reviewed. I pondered on what to do and decided to add a comment myself. It could have been a mistake to start a discussion via the UKC online forums, but it felt like the right thing to do and fortunately several people then left supportive comments that to some extent redressed the balance and made me feel a little better. You can actually check the article and comments out here if you fancy a laugh.
It taught me some interesting things about the online world and it also thickened my skin somewhat. But most of all it taught me to consider carefully before I posted anything. I will, of course, continue to use social media and will also continue, albeit selectively, to voice my opinion and share what can sometimes be challenging content.
But I will mainly continue to focus as much as possible on sharing useful, educational, inspirational and motivational postings. Everyone using social media as an outlet needs to think carefully about what they post things about but, of course, it is the content of what they are posting that is most significant. Is the adage ‘there is no such thing as bad publicity’ really true anymore?
Posted by Paul
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