Quite often, we talk about how different social media is from the real world. We allude to the interactions that happen between strangers in the virtual community as incomparable to what obtains when people can see each other and gauge firsthand emotions. While online mediums represent ivory towers: a cocoon of sorts where realities of physical living take a backseat, it’s imperative to understand that humans exist behind the thoughts, banters, and interactions on social platforms. It is the inability to recognise this that results in uncomfortable or embarrassing situations.
“It’s not just social media” is not a cliche, it is wise advice for anybody who will deploy its use to their advantage.
For instance, I have never understood the rationale behind jumping into conversations for the sake of it or responding in an uncouth manner to differing opinions. Those who opine that what happens in the virtual clime should not have any bearing on physical interactions are naive. They are not being realistic because nobody forgets they were insulted or maligned by another. They may wave it off or pretend to be unbothered, but they will recall the individual’s name or face when they meet outside the walls of Facebook or Twitter.
This brings me to the conversation that went viral between Mary, the job candidate and the Recruiter, and how quite a few people blamed the recruiter for not introducing himself in his first sentence. Yes, some people defended Mary’s rash “What nonsense” response to someone who only requested a bit of patience so they could introduce themselves. It didn’t matter that Mary was the one who would lose out on an opportunity she was seeking, which she eventually did.
An attempt to backtrack after realising who initiated the chat failed to save the day as a result of a minute of impatience. To make things worse, an encounter that should serve as a profound lesson to fellow job seekers and indeed everyone became a subject of debate instead.
Folks who defended Mary’s irrational retort had no job to offer her neither would they refer her to any of their professional contacts. An instructive signal for the discerning.
Oftentimes, what plays out in the online community is the euphoria that accompanies bandwagonism—having a horde of supporters who edge you on regardless of what you do does not make your actions right or appropriate. The aftermath of believing this crowd of praise singers is that it lulls the undiscerning into a false sense of security.
The most important qualities anybody who will use or uses social media should possess are discernment and emotional intelligence.
If Mary does not take the feedback from her encounter with the recruiter and resolve to do better next time, it’ll only be a matter of time before she reaps a stiffer consequence for her temperamental disposition.
When you consider that the people you relate with in the virtual arena are actual humans you may run into or have cause to transact business with outside that space, you’ll become more circumspect with your utterances.
We cannot divorce the happenings on social media from real life.
They are representative of each other. Social media does not exist in isolation. The issues and events that happen offline are feeders for what is discussed online.
You cannot extricate yourself from the personality who trolled a celebrity on Instagram using your Instagram handle. It’s nonsensical to claim that you are kind or warm offline when all you are known for on Twitter is subs and caustic expressions. There’s no way to reconcile the two entities.
In the same way, you’ll have a hard time convincing that recruiter that Mary is the right fit for a client service job: a role where success is hinged on a patient and friendly personality.
Social media is a microcosm of the physical world.
It doesn’t exist outside of it and cannot be neglected as unimportant. The #BlackLivesMatter and #EndSARS movements which got the attention of the entire world and will remain a point of reference in civil activism in history started on social media.
Time and again, the virtual world continues to show us that it cannot be dismissed as unimportant, so why do we assume we can get away with untoward behaviour there?
If it’s “just social media” why do you we prevent obnoxious people from engaging us through the block button? Why do online fights find their way offline through lawsuits and even fisticuffs?
By all means, have fun and let loose within reason, but never lose sight of the potential implications of whatever you do online because social media is indeed real life.