I love social media. I enjoy being able to reach out to potential clients, business associates and partners, and meeting new people. However – and this is a big “but” -, I’m noticing a trend in society of late, and I’m not the only one.
Do you remember the terms “glad-handing” and “rubbing shoulders”? The uses of these terms indicate physical, social interaction, but, thanks to social media, they apply to “chatting up” people. Herein lies the issue.
As much as I love social media and what it can do for my business, it has its side affects. For instance, before we could “connect” online, everything had to be done mostly over the phone or face-to-face. In those circumstances, it’s easy to keep a professional demeanor. Business conversations are normally polite, calm affairs.
However, with the advent of the Internet in general and social media, specifically, very seldom do people have to meet on such a personal level. For instance, I communicate with my people through email and instant message generally. Some businesses use places like Twitter to communicate with their employees – “here’s your assignment” in 140 characters or less.
Because of all this, a serious decline in social interaction is starting to rear its ugly head. Maybe you’ve noticed, but if you haven’t, think about it. Where are the manners? Where is the politeness? Where is the professionalism?
Maybe it’s noticeable to me because of the type of work I do. In general, I might talk to a client over the phone – maybe – three times; otherwise, we communicate through email. What I’m seeing because of this is a serious lack of professionalism. It’s like people think they don’t have to be polite because – well, hey, they’ll never meet in person, so who cares?
Face-to-face, most people are non-confrontational, but I truly believe that they feel they’re safe behind emails, short messages, instant message and the like. If they’re safe, if there is no threat (implied or imagined) as there is in public, they can say what they want without consequences.
Time and again over the past few years, I have had potential clients email me, using a tone that I wouldn’t use on my worst enemy. No matter how I respond, it only seems to make them more belligerent. There doesn’t seem to be anything I can say or do, and I’m stuck, staring in confusion and surprised at their sudden hostility, with no idea how it got there in the first place. In one instance, I swear, all I did was send them a project agreement; they sent me a scathing email!