Reaffirming the Internet Breeds Incivility


Perhaps you saw the dust-up yesterday. Peter Shankman called out my business partner Kami Huyse for a post about one of his tweets (pictured above). Kami was using it as an example to create a conversation about Internet civility… The original tweet was a demonstration. Time consumption abuse by folks who don’t value Peter’s time was used to flaunt rates and be generally flippant on Twitter.

Just an observation that Kami never pointed at Peter directly by name or link, instead using the content of the Tweet as a discussion point. While her title was sensational — I Don’t Have Time to Google You: Microfame Breeds Arrogance — I think she was making a point about mindful conversation in not calling out Peter. Then this happens:

1) Peter Shankman gets angry when he sees the post, responds by titling a second post with her name in it — An Open Letter to Kami Watson Huyse, APR — then linked to her, thus turning a conversation about one of his tweets (anonymously discussed) into a would-be blog war.

2) He also knew that doing so would put the post in search, particularly with his blog’s weight. He is a PR master (the founder of HARO), thus creating a permanent SEO “record” for Kami.

3) Peter turned the conversation about civility into a victim story about how he should get paid (“Still think it’s about me being a douche?,” asks Peter). Poor Peter. Frankly, I get the same BS where people are asking me for free work/blogs all the time. It doesn’t mean that I am entitled to drop a tweet like that and flaunt “my greatness” to my community.

4) Finally, Peter unleashed his fans on Kami, many of which seem to be unable to distinguish between the original story about civility and Peter’s spin about not getting paid. Instead they pile on hate and angst without thinking about the context of the story. Kami’s an experienced online communicator and can take the heat, but a less experienced person would be devastated.

Sorry, but this entire affair — and in particular Peter Shankman’s arrogant remarks as well as the many nastygrams from his fans — only reaffirmed Kami’s original point that the Internet breeds incivility. It also reaffirmed many, many negative feelings I have about personal branders. All in all, it was not a pretty day on the Internet.

Overall, I question the mindfulness of the affair. From Kami’s provocative stance to spark a conversation to pointed personality attacks from a supposed industry leader and finally, the pile-on commenting from fans, it wasn’t the most loving conversation I’ve seen.

In all activities online, I find it useful to ask myself is this about me, or about being of service to the larger community? When it is the prior it usually leads me awry. It’s ego-driven, and frankly creates personal investment that can lead to situations like the above. When I am trying to help others, it often becomes a much more mindful thing.

A good reminder as we go into the rest of the week that our tongues can be powerful weapons… Or forces for good. It’s a choice.