• I will own up to unfriending someone last week over a comment pissing match. It saved me the effort of explaining exactly why I thought his post and subsequent comments were disrespectful.

    There were already anti-Guy sentiments simmering for a while. His faux pas was just the straw that broke the camel’s back in the minds of a lot of so-called gurus. The events just made the collective freak-out easier to start.

    I agree though – the nastiness will continue but as more and more folks choose to walk away, a new norm will (hopefully) emerge.

    • i don’t think there’s anything wrong with unfollowing when someone really pisses you off. Frankly, sometimes space is needed to preserve the hope of a future relationship, rather than going for all out conflict. And when there is no hope, silence, while painful, offers as strong of a reaction as conflict, in my opinion.

      Thanks for adding your thoughts, David!

  • Geoff – I figure there are a hundred battles that could be joined every day on-line; a dozen fights that could be picked; and a solid handful of mis-steps that could be publicly criticized. Almost none of them are ever worth the time or the angst – as tempting as it is to jump into some of them, sword at ready. What’s the point?

    • Agreed, a very short sighted ethos and approach to life online. And as we both know, these digital relationships go on for years, probably decades. Better to walk away for a while.

  • Excellent post Geoff, so much better to extend a hand in understanding rather than smack the lip in hostility.

    • And we’re talking about social media best practices, the art of networking if you would. Ironic, isn’t that? Thank you, hope you are doing well, Anneliz.

  • The fact is, the unfollow or unfriend or even the block button is one click away. One click. Yet many people would rather get into it, especially with someone who has a bit of profile online. Let’s put this into perspective a bit – if I asked 100 of my friends who exist outside of the social media and tech fishbowl who Guy Kawasaki is, I bet most of them would have no clue, and would think it absurd that he was flamed as badly as he was.

    I had the pleasure of talking with Guy on our podcast a few months ago. I found him to be sincere, wildly intelligent, articulate, honest, funny and kind. I’m not trying to blow sunshine up anyone’s butt here. But the fact that a single 140 character tweet got so blown out of proportion tells me that some people really are losing perspective.

    I hope, like you say Geoff, that this devolving civility eventually comes to a rest and shakes out some new, more positive ways of doing things.

    • Well said. A tweet does not make a person. Really enjoyed our conversation on the topic, and loved your post. Cheers!

  • And I thank you for that.

  • When you don’t have to interact face to face it makes it very easy to say anything. I suspect some people use this as opportunity to act out fantasies about how they wish they could respond in person.

    • … but in person, I bet they wouldn’t be as vituperative.

      • No, they wouldn’t be. I think Jack is right, it’s acting out fantasy, what they really think, and then feeling surprised and loved when the thought attracts attention.

  • Hi Geoff,

    I agree with everything you say.

    I wrote a post last week that I think people have received as a “calling out” post. I did not want it to be that. I didn’t mention any names. What bothered me in particular about Guy’s tweet was not the tonality but the actual message. He is a person that a lot of people new to the online world turn to for guidance. I felt it was important to remind people that despite what this big gun had tweeted, number of followers is really irrelevant. I didn’t want his tweet, which I grant may have been a hot-tempered spur of the moment thing, to be taken in by people who could easily be influenced by that statement.

    And you know, I have to say that even though we are all people, if you present yourself as an expert at something, whether it’s acting, writing, tweeting, or painting, you are going to get scrutinized more. Guy has built a huge following in part because of his ability to use Twitter as a tool. Part of using Twitter as a tool means not losing it in the heat of the moment – we’ve all learned that lesson one way or the other. I think it’s fair to say, “Hey dude – you were out of line.”

    I also think it’s interesting how people are differentiating a blog post from comments they make on a Facebook thread. Just because it’s not published on your site doesn’t mean people don’t see it. The filleting was FAR worse on Facebook than it was on any blog posts I have seen, but the people involved in that thread have been rather quiet ever since.

    It’s all too bizarre.

    • I have to say that if you hold people to such high levels of performance, you give then no room for error. That’s not human, nor practical.
      I hope Guy’s critics hold themselves to such high standards, too. Athen they won’t be surprised when they fall hard, a victim of their own unrealistic expectations.

  • We call it social and the disturbing reaction is the mob mentality and the willingness of people to jump in the “fight” for negative actions against another without finding out any details, gone are the days of facts. Is it not bullying, a term many throw-out with ease these days when we utilize an online platform as a means of public shaming? Who are we to possibly ruin a person’s reputation and shaming them publicly? Not my style, but it seems that some have appointed themselves the all-seeing-eye! On your side Geoff and have a supporting post coming on Wednesday!

    • Looking forward to reading it, Randy! I think the extremism at play last week was bullying, and it definitely triggered me as someone who has been bullied (e.g. antisemitism). I withdrew commentary until I could deliver a measured response with this post.

  • wonderful thoughts, Geoff … One of the main components that seems to be taking time to find its way into the online community/social media networks is empathy. Empathy is often non-verbal (expressed through body language, facial expressions, hugs) but is, in essence, the ability to know & feel and then to respond compassionately. We see a lot of empathy in the case of ‘simple’ situations i.e. getting foot surgery, children with bad colds, etc. It’s more challenging, I think, for people to extend compassion in the face of blatant errors (to which, as humans, we are all susceptible), perhaps thanks to schadenfreude? You strike a perfect chord ~ to forgive is divine; not just for the forgiven but also for the forgiver. Thanks again for a thoughtful post and have a wonderful day! ~peace~

    • You really nailed it, compassion is the critical equity builder in these situations. Without compassion, we have nothing except a cold, merciless world.

  • I dream of a time and a place when the world can be free of negativity and we live in peace and love the way we were created to be. Our power comes from our ability to love beyond reason.

  • I am all for civility in social media, and our Sunday post series over at ArCompany analyze the social mob and its tendency to to serve as judge, jury and executioner, but I think the reaction to Kawasaki was totally understandable because of what he said. I thought Steve Crescenza’s article on Ragan was extreme, but Guy should have known what would happen with that arrogant tweet.

    I don’t think you should turn off auto tweets because of the terrorists, but I do think that it’s not always smart marketing. If MOST of the twitterverse is watching their feed for news, and feeling raw and frightened, selling anything won’t work, and can appear insensitive. I don’t think it’s a cardinal sin to run them, but I don’t think it does any good either.

    With all of that being said, I am all for more civility in social, and YES, I totally agree that most of us would be nicer in person. However, I’m also bothered that so many social marketers, especially because many of us are ‘friends’ and run in the same circles, are afraid to call each other out. That’s why I loved Margie’s post – she did it with class.

    • If we can’t Guy a break for a tweet in the midst of a terror attack while being held to the critical torch, then I guess I have a hard time seeing the belief in civility. Sorry, but compassion and understanding are part of the equation, in my opinion. That supersedes smart marketing. I’m a human being before I am a marketer. I’ll be a human being when I hang up my gloves, and end my marketing career, too.

      • And where was Guy’s civility in response to a suggestion? That’s my point. And WE, this little social bubble, tend to not call each other out. I think Steve went overboard, but I am glad to see marketers checked for their arrogance. Sorry, that’s what Guy’s tweet was, and the idea that the NUMBER of followers you have is how I measure your advice, well, that’s Klout thinking right there, and I don’t follow that thought process. I didn’t rag on him, but I don’t blame those who did, for HIS lack of civility.

        My entire point about not marketing during the tragedy IS because we are humans first, and humanity comes first.

      • Okay Geoff, I buy being human before being a marketer. Great. People were calling out Guy for a) acting like a marketer first, b) being uncivil and downright rude in his responses to sincere requests. How is critiquing uncivil behaviour uncivil? You’re doing it here after all…

        • How very meta! Does that mean you’ll unfollow me.

          Language, it’s all in the way that you do it. Amy thought Margie’s post was a good way to do it, and certainly it was better than most. I thought given the circumstance a pile on took place. We’re all entitled to our opinion, of course.

      • AMEN.

    • I think we need to cut people some slack and realize our world is far bigger than our social media bubble.

  • The really key point for us all to learn from is how we live with expectations. I agree right now they are rather unrealistic expectation in the online world.

    Until we adjust our expectations, then clients will have unreal ones for us too. Not a world I want to live in as we all realize in this space it is evolving and growing.

    It is time for us to think first and stop reacting all over the place. It almosts reminds me of two year olds throwing a temper tantrum.

    When did everyone become hall monitors? Does that role really suit us? What are we expecting from that stance?

    Funny thing I see is those who want to hold these call out sessions are mostly doing it to gain attention, in hope they will be seen as the better choice for their services. Not how I would go about positioning my brand frankly.

    • Totally agree with you, Michele. We did talk about this yesterday, and I think you brought up expectations, and it escaped me at the time.

      Expectations are resentments waiting to happen. In particular, when we hold people to an expectation of perfection, we are setting ourselves up for a huge disappointment. I think we really so this best typified in the Lance Armstrong situation.

      Good luck today, and I hope you had a great birthday week!

  • I am of two mindsets on this; one, there is a time and place for everything or two, there is no better time nor place. Like you, I am a 9-11 child only my birth was 20 blocks for the WTC, neighbourhood in lockdown and panicked friends trying to get over the river(s) home. Unlike you, I don’t believe in the ‘if we, then the terrorists win’ sentiment although I respect your right to have that attitude based on your personal experiences. Last week was a terrible time for many many people and I don’t disagree that marketing should have taken a backseat – not because of the terrorist win argument – but because the space was an important medium with which to share updates and ultimately, help the authorities identify the bombers. If you remove some of the noise, there is more room for the space to function in that matter. Did I lose respect for Guy over that response? Well, not really but I was pretty surprised because my interactions with him, both public and not, have been polite and have superceded the typical guru holier than thou framework that tends to permeate the bubble that we call social. Did I feel that there might have been a better choice? Yes, but ‘been there, done that’ resonated more than Guy is a db. But the larger point of this post, at least how I am interpreting it, is that we have allowed incivility to take over where respect once ruled. That? That issue is larger than Boston or Guruism or frankly, social media. That is a societal problem that is growing in leaps and bounds and can be found both in front of and behind the keyboard. I took a lot of deep breathes last week and responded privately when I could not longer hold my tongue. Practice makes perfect. We all make choices. It’s taking responsibility for those choices that ultimately rues the day.

    • Well said, Liz. There’s a reason why you are seeing this post this week, and not last Friday. In particular, I could not be measured in my tone. Pulling back was the best thing I could do give my history of teeing off. That history and experience with the results is what saved me from making the situation worse with a reaction, rather than this response, which pulled out the larger points on civility, in general.

      Two wrongs never make a right, nor do three. The only thing that happens when we compound angst is a downward spiral.

  • Geoff, I’m glad you used the term civility, and yet it rubs some people the wrong way since they misinterpret it to mean that they’re somehow being “suppressed” in their desire to express their thoughts and opinions – when in fact it’s often simply a request for people to think before they act, with the assumption that if they did so, many would be more careful both in what they say and how they say it, instead of having knee-jerk, hyper-amplified reactions to everything they see. We need to think about what kind of online culture we want to have… is it one where everyone is given a voice to discuss even difficult issues in a productive way (and yes, that can sometimes get intense and heated), or one where those who are the loudest and meanest bad-asses call the shots?

    I also agree with your point that we need to be careful in vilifying those who make mistakes online. Pointing out the questionable behavior and holding them accountable is fine, but beating on them repeatedly is counter-productive, even more so if the individual acknowledged the error and/or has an overall positive history. A lot depends on the circumstances and details of the particular situation. And sooner or later, nearly all of us “misstep” in one way or another, so let’s hope that the online lynch mobs aren’t lurking when we do.

    • Thanks, Andrea. You would know more than most, given how much time you have devoted to the topic.

      We can have differing opinions, as you said so long as they are expressed with an air of civility. I think in particular, @AmyMccTobin:disqus , @facebook-714756593:disqus and @MargieClayman:disqus all expressed somewhat differing views here, and that’s cool. They were all civil in that, so in my book, we’re good. I appreciate their time, even though I did or did not agree with them in context.

      You brought up a key point, which was circumstances and detail. Last week was brutal on everyone, and no more so than those living in Boston. I think a mulligan can be given to folks who acted out in this situation, particularly those like Guy who have a long history of giving to and supporting the sector.

      Thank you for taking the time to comment.

  • Thanks for this post–I’ve been bothered by the lack of civility in the blogosphere for a long time. That said, I think sometimes people and companies need a well-placed kick in the pants. The important thing is to start off kind and save the sharpness for people or organizations that deserve it. It’s a heckuvalot more effective that way.

    • Yeah, I’d agree that acts and consequence need to be measured based on situation. Lance Armstrong and the criticism received, um, yeah… Do I really need to complete that sentence? LOL!

  • An excellent, comprehensive post.

    I hope you’re right — that there will be a backlash. I know of a couple civility movements, which is a good sign.

    But I am less optimistic. I look at the comment section in our daily newspaper and it is a cesspool of angry, bigoted, awful sentiments. Some of it is behind the cover of false names, but I fear it is still a reflection of society in general, as awful as that may seem. Sadly, the situation may even get worse before it gets better as these folks pile online. I suppose this is part of human diversity too and it doesn’t take too many haters to hijack a conversation.

    I often wonder if I am building a personal brand that will hopefully benefit my family and my business or simply a bigger target that will ultimately result in abuse.

    • I think your profile is bigger than mine, so I feel safe in saying that I am sure you receive your fair amount of grief online. I unfortunately do agree that the bigger our presence gets, we see an exponential increase the frequency and degree of nastiness. I can only hope that this will change for the better. Thanks for your thoughts, Mark.

  • Geoff – Sadly, this devolution is creeping from the virtual to the real world. Everyone is an expert. Everyone knows everything. Everyone has an opinion and theirs is the only one that matters.

    We see this all around us. Particularly troubling are the “leaders” whose public displays only serve to encourage us to more and more bad behavior.

    What ever happened to the teachings of Dale Carnegie? What happened to treating others with the respect we would have them treat us? Don’t we all live in glass houses?

    Why is it so important to prove you are bigger and badder than everyone else?

    I will be happy to accept all criticism from anyone who has already achieved perfection. Until then, I suggest you spend a little more time looking inwards and less time pointing fingers and placing blame.

    We are bound to disagree on various issues. Why can’t we accept that my opinion is no more right than yours, and vice versa? Why can’t we agree to disagree?


    • Totally agree, and good point on Dale Carnegie. Dale Carnegie believed calling out others wrongs was the surest way to alienate them. We should be self deprecating instead, thought Carnegie.

      I do think the social media blogging prove my smarts thing has gone too far. We can’t live up to the smarter than though syndrome 24-7, it’s impossible.

      Thanks for visiting!

  • I think too many people forget that Twitter (or any online platform) amplifies your message. I don’t understand why anyone feels he or she ought to call out individuals for what they choose to post and when. If we all waited for the politically correct moment to post something, then we’d all be sitting around silently all day. Hmm, maybe that’s not so bad?

    Some people just like to pick fights. I tend to ignore them or block them b/c it’s not the reason I’m on public platforms.

    That said, I do think that individuals and brands need to be mindful of their audience — and the current events that might impact that audience. From my perspective, Guy Kawasaki’s misstep wasn’t what he did — it’s what he said (about his follower numbers) when called out by someone. Again, there’s a right way and a wrong way to make your point. And one will deescalate the conversation — the other will do the opposite.

    • I agree, I’ve certainly seen that with this fight. Unfortunately, it tends to be the same group of people, and that’s a problem in its own right, too. Loudest is not always right.

      Guy reacted wrongly, I agree wit that, too. But I’m willing to cut just about anybody a break on a bad tweet last week. A singular bad tweet. We are all guilty of that at times. Glass houses, just my $0.02.

  • Well said, Geoff. I would rather read more Kawasaki autotweets about the virtues of tulips than another round of sanctimonious Kawasaki bashing from so-called experts who apparently had nothing better to say or do all week.

    • I find it odd that all of this energy was going into Kawasaki when people were really suffering in Boston (and Texas).

  • Loved your post.

    I have said it often… Social Media has the power to bring forth much social good. If we are not carful however, Social Media will become the most destructive force of our time.

    High Five to you for speaking to the pink elephant in the room. I have been concerned about this behavior for some time. As leaders in the social space, many must keep in mind the millions including our younger generations are looking up to those who claim to be the experts.

    When the experts/influencers are the very individuals acting outside of acceptable appropriate off-line social norms, a very poor example is shared for what the new on-line norms developing should and will be.

    What needs to be clear is what we all do and say online is happening in REAL time and REAL life. The very social norms such as civility, which we honor off-line are the very social norms we must honor on-line.

    Let’s lead by example and recall what most of us learned as young children. Be kind. Be respectful. No yelling. Inside voices. No name calling. Play NICE.

    We learned these behavioral limits/rules on the playground and schools of our youth. Sadly, we don’t have a Principle’s office to send those acting out of line on Social Media. For this reason, leading by example/setting bounderies to this lack of civility is the most important step we as experts, leaders, adults and humane individuals must take to grow the social space in a positive manner.

    Thanks again for sharing…. You Rock.

  • Think before you type!

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