Gini Dietrich

The Social Media Mob Needs to Go

By: Gini Dietrich | March 24, 2015 | 

The Social Media Mob Needs to GoBy Gini Dietrich

We live in a strange and unprecedented world: Rather than give people a scarlet letter when they do something we don’t agree with, the social media mob comes after them and, in some cases, ruins their lives.

Earlier this year, Justine Sacco broke her silence after she lost her job and went into hiding. For more than a year.

She is the woman who tweeted some unfortunate racist things, including, “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!”

After she tweeted that gem, she got on an 11-hour flight that didn’t have an Internet connection and went to sleep.

The social media mob went nuts. Her tweet went viral and the hashtag, #HasJustineLandedYet, trended globally while people gleefully waited to see what would happen.

By the time she landed and checked her phone, she had text messages from people she hadn’t heard from in years, urgent voicemail messages from close friends, and an email from her boss, firing her.

At the time, Joe Thornley, Martin Waxman, and I discussed it on Inside PR.

I was a bit indignant that the boss didn’t even wait to hear her side of the story. He just bowed to the social media mob and fired her…while she was on an international flight and couldn’t defend herself.

It also struck me as odd that a communications professional didn’t know better.

But we all agreed the social media mob was at its worst here, even if she did use poor judgement in her tweets.

The Social Media Mob

Jon Ronson has a new book out—”So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed“—and he talked to Sacco during his research.

It became a feature piece in New York Magazine (a brilliant book promotion idea, by-the-way) called, “How One Stupid Tweet Blew Up Justine Sacco’s Life.

Ronson explores Sacco’s side of the story, which then creates an opportunity for Sam Biddle at Gawker (the journalist who broke the Africa tweet story) to come to grips with the other side, and even come to peace with her.

It also has sparked an online conversation about the social media mob and how it should be stopped.

The Washington Post takes it even further and explores other public attacks from the social media mob:

Feminist writers and activists like Jessica Valenti struggle to keep up public writing in the face of constant online attacks. Other writers, like Jaclyn Munson and Lauren Bruce, have been driven to withdraw from the Internet entirely.

The vulnerability of women of color is even more intense: Prominent scholars like Anthea Butler of the University of Pennsylvania face onslaughts of racist harassment just for speaking their minds.

Outside of academia, activists like Jamia Wilson are targets of uniquely brutal and racially tinged abuse, and social critics like Feminista Jones must put up with attacks on a daily basis.

It’s amazing what can happen when someone can sit behind their computer screen, armed with a keyboard, anonymity, and other anonymous trolls flaming the fires.

Don’t Read the Comments

A few days ago, I made the mistake of reading the comments on an article Ragan syndicated from this very blog.

It was about the pay gap between men and women in the PR industry so I thought I would be safe to read the comments. After all, how could anyone think this isn’t bad?

Well, I was wrong.

I read the first two comments—both posted anonymously—and immediately closed the article.

Then I took to Facebook to vent.

Screen Shot 2015-03-24 at 5.52.56 AM

It’s so easy for the social media mob to criticize—online, in anonymous survey results, and (most of the time) without knowing the person—but not to create.

Perhaps if they also created, they wouldn’t be so fast to jump on the bandwagon.

Make a Pact

Look, I’m no saint. In the early years of blogging—right when Spin Sucks was gaining in popularity—I fell victim to the popular crowd and joined the social media mob.

There is a blog post I wrote in 2010 that I still regret. It jumped on the bandwagon and did nothing to help move the vision of this blog forward. It also managed to get me banned from a major conference.

Not exactly what I’m trying to do here, is it?

When I realized what a tool I had been, I immediately wrote down the vision of this blog—to change the perception people have of the PR industry—and posted it on my computer screen.

Now, when I write a blog post, I ask myself if it goes to that vision. If it doesn’t, I scrap the idea…even if I know it’s going to be controversial and get lots of traffic.

I’d like to challenge you to make a pact with me. Let’s change the social media mob mentality and not let it take hold.

Here are some things you can do:

  • If someone wrongs you, talk to them privately. Don’t write a blog post about it. Don’t send an angry email. Make a phone call. We were plagiarized a few weeks ago. I very easily could have written a blog post about it and flamed the company. Instead I made a phone call and met with their CEO in person. We fixed it offline and gained even more respect for one another.
  • Don’t jump on the bandwagon. It’s really easy to retweet something or re-share on Facebook. Really easy. Fight the temptation. I will absolutely talk about an issue or crisis that is happening in the industry IF there is a lesson our readers can take from it. If the sole purpose of our sharing it is just mean and catty, we don’t do it.
  • Be professional in your discourse. I absolutely think we should debate and challenge one another. I’m a big fan of critical thinking. But be professional about it. Do it under your own name. If you have to post anonymously, perhaps you shouldn’t post it at all. That whole “if you don’t have anything nice to say…” thing.
  • Take time to learn both sides. As the mantra goes, “There are always three sides to a story: His side, her side, and the truth.” Find the truth.
  • Remember there are human beings on the other side. Put yourself in their shoes. What if what you’re about to share was about you? Would you feel differently about it?
  • Live the Golden Rule. Always, always remember that people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. If you are about to do something that does something to someone in a way you would not want to be treated, rethink it.

Are you willing to join me in this pact agains the social media mob?

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. Join the Spin Sucks   community!

  • It’s funny/coincidental. I wrote a piece for Weaving Influence today that sort of touched on this same thing — the fact that I learned as a crisis counselor to establish a relationship first before trying to help the person with their problems …. and the fact that social media tempts us to skip over that whole “relationship building” part. And when we skip the relationship building part, the outcomes are much less positive. // Great piece, Gini, one which we should all take to heart.

  • biggreenpen It’s SO EASY to vilify someone if we don’t know them. We do it every day when we people watch and it gets worse when we skip the relationship building part. Until we’ve walked in that person’s shoes, who are we to judge?

  • And why are most of the “victims” women??? I had a situation a couple of weeks ago and looking back now, wish I had gone with my gut and ignored it but instead I – you guessed it – wrote a post. And while my post didn’t directly call someone out (by name) for being mean, it indirectly did which made me just as bad as the original offender. Which was “pointed out” to me quite a few times.
    People make mistakes. Words without voice inflection and facial expression have too many alternative meanings. Cowards hide behind screens and anonymity. And until you’ve had a bunch of people attacking you for something that THEY usually misconstrued, you dont know how devastating it can feel.
    I’m with you Gini… Lighten up and cut people some slack.

  • Lara Wellman

    Such an important post!  I can’t get over how quickly people get angry and share it publicly.

    It’s interesting because I read another article this morning that was all about a boy in Ontario with Aspergers who had nobody RSVP to his birthday party so his mother went to a closed Facebook group and asked people to send him text messages and possibly show up to his birthday party at a local bowling alley.  The thing went viral and he got thousands of texts and thousands showed up to his party.

    There are now all kinds of people criticizing the mom for shaming the kids who didn’t RSVP in the first place, shaming the parents of the kids who weren’t polite enough to RSVP, for pointing out to the world that nobody wanted to come to her kid’s birthday party, etc.  I feel like the internet has shown us just how people react in extremes and how quickly people can always find a negative to something.
    (Personally, I was worried that this thing going viral would overwhelm a kid with aspergers. *I* would be overwhelmed at the response he got, but I project my anxiety a bit 😉

    All that to say, I completely agree with you and wish people would slow down a bit before posting everything they think and especially getting angry and sharing that with the world. And I’m going to share this post 🙂

  • CaptainKinship

    I can certainly see both sides of the story here. On the one side, the requirement to remain balanced when dealing with online content, and especially social media. It is a shame that digital technology gives us the means to gang up and be cruel to each other on the basis of how things seem, rather than how they might actually be.

    But on the other hand, you have to consider the possibility of anything else. If we get rid of the bullies and the nasties of the internet, how do you police that? How do you enforce something like that? If we’re working in a field that is literally all about managing reputation, trust, credibility… can we, as in the case of the Justine Sacco, be expected to be held at the same lower standard as everybody else?
    That said, I am of course not condoning the abuse that people get on the basis of race, or sex, or anything like that. That’s deplorable behaviour. But isn’t the social media mob the very reason why our profession exists? And in a sense, aren’t we all, already, against the lynching that takes place?

  • CaptainKinship I would love to think the entire profession is already against the lynching that takes place, but I don’t think everyone is as altruistic as that. Some of it is “mean girl” reaction, some of it is jumping on the bandwagon, but in our profession—in particular—it’s so much more…we oftentimes instigate it. I’m reminded of the whisper campaign that Burson employees did against Google for Facebook. They fabricated stories to make their client look better. It’s not the social media mob, but it most certainly isn’t standing up for what’s right or doing things ethically. 

    That said, I do think someone like Sacco should be held to a higher standard because she is a communications professional and she should know better. But we all are human. I’ve most certainly made mistakes. And I would have a really hard time (I have very thin skin) if I were publicly shamed because of something stupid I said online.

  • Lara Wellman I saw that same story and my first thought was, “Shame on the parents who didn’t RSVP!” But I also didn’t share the story or provide my opinion on it. I stopped and thought about it and then went on about my day. (I also think it’s funny that some parents are shaming the mom for posting it because someday all his friends will know no one came to his birthday party.) In times like that, I’m reminded of my seventh grade dance. A kid in my grade had Down’s and he asked me to dance. I was a 13-year-old girl and I was MORTIFIED. My mom pulled me aside and she said, “You do not have to marry him. You do not have to date him. You do not have to kiss him or hold his hand. But you do have to dance with him.” And I did…while all my friends snickered in the corner. But you know what? It didn’t kill me and it made his day. And THAT is a very important lesson to learn.

  • KristenDaukas It’s really hard not to write posts when you’re angry. It’s the same as writing angry emails. But, just like with emails, we should write it all down and then never hit publish. Get it out of our systems and let it sit for a day or two. Most often you’re not going to publish it because you’ll have calmed down. I’m guilty of the same, exact thing.

  • You know how many blog posts I read per year that are solely based on getting back at someone publicly? I agree — enough is enough. It doesn’t make anyone look any better for doing so.  
    I also find it interesting that people use their freedom of speech as a weapon to others who are also simply exercising the same right. It’s just baffling.

  • samemac

    This. All of this. It’s probably my favorite post – to date. 

    I had this conversation just yesterday with a few colleagues and community partners. We discussed Monica Lewinsky’s current TED Talk “The Price of Shame” (

    I honestly think this topic deserves a banner to be waved around and a movement of like-minded professionals to push it. We live in a world where mere children are making mistakes and living out the consequences on a much larger scale. While some mistakes are much larger than others and deserve consequences that make one understand the mistake and learn from it, the level of attack that occurs through social media is profound – and lives on in perpetuity moving forward.

    A friend of mine, jimcollpr works very hard to spread a message of just being nice, polite and moving the industry forward without undercutting people. Using social and digital platforms for good – not a place for debauchery and shaming. 

    Thank you for starting this conversation. It is absolutely necessary.

  • JRHalloran It’s A LOT of blog posts. I also owe you an email. I haven’t forgotten!

  • It always amazes me how brave someone is hiding behind a computer screen. Bullying is a growing problem. Competitors are bullying each other by posting fake, anonymous reviews. Fired employees who in many cases got fired for their own behavior take to anonymously beating up a employer on line. And it goes on and on.

    Same with social media sites and customer service. I always cringe when I see someone blast bad experiences when it seems that was a knee jerk reaction. Reach out to the firm first, even if its via social media by saying something like “i am experiencing some difficulty, could someone assist me?”, Most often it appears to me when I see these posts and follow the following conversation it is started by someone who feels they deserve some sort of compensation and try to force by public shame.

    I will join you in your pact!

  • “It’s so easy for the social media mob to criticize—online, in anonymous survey results, and (most of the time) without knowing the person—but not to create.” 
    I was thinking this EXACT same thing when I read an incredibly mean comment on one of my PR Daily posts last month. The article did really well. I got great feedback. But there was the one angry person who wanted to tell me what an awful PR pro I was. I wanted to say “Well, what have you written lately? Maybe you should put yourself out there before criticizing!”
    But I didn’t. I vented to my dog (he’s a great listener) for about an hour, then wrote a really cohesive, pleasant and well-thought-out response to share what my vision was for the post, and why it didn’t include what she was criticizing me for. Of course, she didn’t respond, but I felt SO much better and regained my confidence after it was completely ruined for a day.
    I’m in for this pact, Gini!

  • I read that New York Magazine piece and was amazed at how, a few steps back from the heat, it really undermined a lot of my assumptions about Sacco and the whole incident.
    One thing I find curious. A number of publications have taken to requiring people to post using their Facebook profile, and yet the comment sections on their website remain a cesspool. I suppose some people make up fake profiles for the purpose of attacking others and spreading racist vitriol, but it seems many of them just don’t care.

  • samemac

    SMVermillion Trolls. They are everywhere.

  • Over here in Scotland the independence debate has embraced social media. Whilst some of it is constructive and useful, there’s so many awful things being said on both sides. People are very passionate about the issue but with passion comes overstepping the mark sometimes. As an Englishman Scotland’s not always the nicest place to be any more because of it.

    I’m all for debate but the social media mob take things too far – particularly the anonymous and fake profiles that are springing up all over the place.

  • I got banned from a conference once, but who knew the bathrooms would be located next to the head table after a long night of Mexican food and Tequila….:(

    The semi-anonymity has really allowed some ugliness to rear it’s head in the realm of social and you make some good points about thinking before you publish or share as to what impact it will have and how it represents you. 

    It’s still never too late to do the right thing; my motto is ” what would your mama think about that?” Proud, or not proud….

  • ginidietrich CaptainKinship Anecdote: there is a guy on twitter who I realize now is ALL sarcasm ALL the time but before I realized that, he had tweeted something that aligned with something another twitter friend (who has a bit of public notoriety) had said and I said something completely sincere like, “oh funny you got that idea from [x].” He literally tweeted back a vitriolic tweet that said something like, “you’re accusing me of stealing material you b**ch, go f*** off.” I laugh about it now but at the time I was BLOWN AWAY. The only thing I could think to do was go for a good run. Now I just don’t engage with the guy. He’s an oddball. With a bad mouth and not much of a sense of humor. #EndOfAnecdote

  • ginidietrich Lara Wellman I love your mom, Gini.

  • biggreenpen Lara Wellman She’s a good girl.

  • Diana Combs

    You wrote:
    “It’s amazing what can happen when someone can sit behind their computer screen, armed with a keyboard, anonymity, and other anonymous trolls flaming the fires.”
    Yes, because it isn’t just social media where people do that.  I worked for a company with intrAnet & chat rooms, and there was definitely a troll or two who worked for the company, and ruined their international reputation with colleagues by spouting venom on fellow employees.
    It has always stunned me how anonymity has been an easy excuse to be cruel.  There must be a lot of unhappy people who would do that. 
    The other thing you wrote:
    “Be professional in your discourse. I absolutely think we should debate and challenge one another. I’m a big fan of critical thinking. But be professional about it. Do it under your own name. If you have to post anonymously, perhaps you shouldn’t post it at all. That whole “if you don’t have anything nice to say…” thing.’
    I am often surprised that people need to be told that.  Especially seasoned colleagues who have the maturity to know better than to go venting in print.  Not that I’m a saint, but I try to be careful.  Those who don’t, and act without thinking — they stun me. 
    This is a long reply, so bear with me :-).  I’m not surprised what happened to Justine Sacco.  She is in an industry that knows about public image & branding, she was an executive, and she publicly tweeted something that reflected badly on not just her, but her employer.

  • bobledrew

    The other tip: Have the courage of your convictions and put your name to your comments. Like is done here. I know that anonymity has some purposes, but there’s far more downside than up.

  • ginidietrich

    JennyStarkey Thank you!

  • bobledrew Totally agreed!

  • bobledrew Yes. It’s not hard. If you are embarrassed to write what you have to say in your own name, you probably shouldn’t say it.

  • Diana Combs It often makes me laugh that there are two things we will never change another’s mind about—politics and religion—yet it’s been okay to talk about those two things all over the social networks. It’s incredible, really. But it goes to your point about seasoned colleagues having to be told.

  • bdorman264 Or, as my mom always says, “Remember who you are and what you stand for.”

  • Tim Bonner Totally, totally agree. I think we forget there are human beings on the other end of our vitriol.

  • RobBiesenbach I don’t know if it falls on the side of “it’s too much work to moderate” conversation. You know how I feel about it. I moderate the conversation here. And, trust me, it’s not too much work. I have tools in place that help. It alerts me to comments that have certain words in them. It’s not difficult.

  • SMVermillion When I was president of PRSA Chicago a few years ago, people would tell me what they thought about our programming. I would always (ALWAYS) say, “We could really use another programming committee member. Can we count on you?” It’s amazing how quickly they disappear.

  • sydcon_mktg We had a situation where that turned around on us. We called and had a private conversation with a company and then they turned to social media to flame us. They never said our name, but we knew it was us…and I even commented on it, explaining why we did what we did. It sort of flamed out after that, but it was REALLY interesting to see some of my friends pile on before they knew it was me or what my side of the story was.

    I know you’ve had a similar situation…

  • biggreenpen Wow. I would be floored, too.

  • I got publicly shamed a few years ago by an online bully who I know in person. The sad part is that many people get tough behind a computer screen, but would not dare say that stuff to your face. Unreal the stuff I was called. 

    Anyway, Justine Sacco to me is hugely unsympathetic. I get that she was kidding, but it was in such poor taste. I guess it is the “I am rich and you are not” attitude that bothers me. I often have much more empathy for those who I feel are not bothering people, yet are treated unfairly. 

    This was interesting. One of my close friends has a brother who shows signs of becoming an online bully so this was timely.

  • NancyDavis More importantly, did you get your hair cut and do you have a date tonight? I’m dying to know if what I think is going to happen is going to happen.

  • ginidietrich My date is not til the weekend, but he is nagging me to get my hair cut! My hairdresser was not there today. Something is up I know it!

  • Was that the joint blog post about BlogWorld (now New Media Expo)? Or was it the post about Chris Brogan and his “Google+ for Business” webinar? And Rick from NME jumped in and demanded you publicly apologize?
    Because if so, you shouldn’t regret anything. The hypocrisy behind the NME end-of-show that year, and their worry about the panel’s original title, was laughable, as was Rick’s blanking at the event.
    However, I digress…
    I wrote a post just over 12 months ago that looked at this growing mob mentality.
    Where I think a large part of the problem lies is in the acceptance that this kind of behaviour is justifiable. Even taking out the anonymous part of commenting (and there are Pros and Cons to both sides of that argument), we’re being silent in countering this mindset when we see it’s happening.
    We stay quiet because we want speaking gigs, or client gigs, or know friends who are friends and don’t want to rock the boat.
    We stay quiet because we don’t want to risk people being out off what we have to say, through association of challenging people who speak way out of line and having their mutual friends and community members blanking us.
    Here’s the thing – do we want to stay quiet to not rock the boat, or do we want to take a stand and push back?
    Because if it’s the former, we’re only exacerbating the issue for our kids and generations to come. And that’s something nobody wants to be a part of, surely?

  • bobledrew Look, Pepe, when you stop using Bob and revert to Pepe….

  • ginidietrich bobledrew I’m not sure it’s always that easy.
    Say someone that works for a government agency disagrees with the government’s policy on privacy, and (by employee association) can’t speak publicly, but has a very strong argument to share?
    Or say someone has had the flip side of sexual harassment from a female boss, and is too embarrassed to talk about it using their own name, but opens up on a blog post or forum to get advice? 
    As I mentioned on Facebook when this was being discussed, it’s not as black and white as we’d like to think it is when it comes to anonymity on the web.

  • The thing about the mob mentality is that it’s almost universally about flaying a person for a thoughtless mistake that 10 years ago wouldn’t have been a blip on anyone’s radar. All of the sudden, we’re supposed to be perfect because someone might post our actions on social media? (Or maybe we just say something bone-headed ourselves.)
    People don’t change their behaviour based on being attacked. They don’t feel remorse when they’re shamed. They either withdraw completely out of fear, like Justine Sacco, or they push back and try to justify their actions like Amy’s Baking Company.

  • I´m in! Great post Gini! 
    Speaking of mistakes in social, on Sunday I posted a tweet with something Guy Kawasaki supposedly said in a podcast I was listening: “I would auto post on Google+ for SEO purposes, but other than that I don´t see the value.”
    Of course it wasn´t Guy, it was one of the podcast hosts who´s voice I mistook with Guy´s. And it happened because I didn´t listened from the beginning, I jumped at the part about Google+.
    As soon as I realized my errror, I tweeted an apology to Guy, who responded and was very cool about it.
    However, in the time between my first tweet and my apology (a few minutes), several folks saw and RT the first tweet only. Then Guy answered saying he didn´t agree and other bunch of people retweeted his tweet out of context.
    It always amazes me how eager we are to point at someone else´s mistake(s), without having seen the big picture. I can sleep at night, I know I made a mistake and I apologized to the right person. But for some it seems like “just another day at the office”.
    Some people should get a life, because all they do online or offline is just the expression of an interior unhappiness.
    As for Justine Sacco, we should grow up and live our lives. She made a mistake and paid for it maybe more than it should have. And it´s been a year already!!! 
    Countries leaders make bigger mistakes that affects people´s lives and we don´t react like this. We vent a little and end up accepting it. And that´s what amazes me over and over again.
    Before writing something you feel you might regret later, stop and ask yourself: “Will my parents/kids or 10 years from now me, be proud of me after reading this?”

  • NancyDavis Something is up!

  • Danny Brown bobledrew BUT…why would you want those things in writing? If I worked for a government agency and wanted to share a strong argument, I most certainly wouldn’t put anything in writing that could cause me to get fired if found out. If I were on the flip side of harassment and there could be a lawsuit forthcoming, why would I put anything in writing that could be used in the lawsuit later…against me? Sure, I’d want to talk to someone, but it’d be all offline. 

    My view on anonymity is if you have to be anonymous, you probably shouldn’t be posting about it at all.

  • ginidietrich This is why the Whistleblower Law was enabled. Sorry, we’ll have to disagree strongly on this – it’s unfair to expect someone to not voice something unless they’re public about who they are, based on certain circumstances. Otherwise, it’s the mob that wins, and that negates the post currently being discussed. bobledrew

  • ginidietrich Case in point. Person A works for an arm of the government. Said government introduces (or plans to introduce) bill that is against many of Person A ‘s beliefs when it comes to citizen privacy. Person A can’t join a discussion on Facebook, or Twitter, or comment on a blog, because Person A’ beliefs are against his/her employer’s politics (even if Person A doesn’t work directly in the ruling government’s office, but an agency/arm of the ruling government).
    Additionally, Person A can’t offer an opinion on Federal politics, as it relates to Provincial (or even Municipal). For me, anonymity (based on position and factual statements, versus anonymous to be a troll) is understandable. bobledrew

  • ginidietrich  For anyone reading this, it’s a good email. No bad talk going on lol.

  • Diana Combs

    Karen_C_Wilson  It isn’t always a blip of a mistake either.  I see people justifying their shaming of public figures with the attitude of “s/he asked for it”.  I’m talking about public figures who don’t even make a mistake, but just walk the earth. People that I grew up with (but thankfully aren’t close to) see or hear them, and absolutely fries them for nothing.  It is rife with judgment and shows a glaring jealousy of those in a better position in life.  Just tearing down the nearest victim to feel superior for 30 seconds.   
    I wouldn’t be surprised if, behind public shaming, people are seeking to be superior themselves.  I’ve tried to stay out that fray, because it spreads negativity, which I can’t stand.
    Somehow our culture has gotten to that point though.

  • Danny Brown But to what end? If Person A is doing it for whistleblowing purposes, social media and blogging aren’t the right avenues for that. If Person A is doing it to blow off steam and vent, what’s the purpose? I feel like the risk is much, much greater than the reward.

  • Great post, Gini. I read Jon Ronson’s book on public shaming in two sittings last week – couldn’t put it down!  And I’m lecturing on cyber bullying and online behaviour next week, so this has given me plenty of food for thought.  The rules you’ve outlined in your pact are good rules for life in general, not just for social media 🙂

  • ginidietrich Remove the whistleblower part. Put it in simple terms – you no longer have the right to share an opinion (not blow off steam, just share an opinion). That’s pretty much a dictatorship. I’m all for anonymity when opinions are being stifled because of jobs (and the “find another job” argument is easier said than done in this economy).
    Also, let’s use the examples in your post. You advise the social media mob needs to go. I agree. But what if the only way to do so is to counter anonymously because of fear of retribution (just look at those that stood up for #GamerGate victims and the crap that landed on them)? Would you still suggest removing anonymity?

  • KevinVandever

    Great advice for dealing with folks in general. Beyond the Blog. I’ve spoke out against this type of behavior before, with someone I know well. It was tough and didn’t really do anything to change behavior, but I felt good that I took a stand and let others know I wasn’t on the bandwagon. Cyber bullying (bullying of any kind, really) and public shaming are at the top of my list of things that fry me. I could, and should, do more to stop these behaviors.  

    Pact accepted. We should make it official over wine.

  • MartinaPQuinn Oh you did?! I downloaded it, but haven’t read it yet. Nice to have your stamp of approval.

  • nmcgivney

    ginidietrich All for it. I’ll keep my expectations in check but travel in hope.

  • Danny Brown I’m trying to see your side of it and put myself in a position of not wanting people to know who I am, but still passionately standing up for what I believe. I don’t know…I guess I just don’t think online is the place for it. I have to think on it some. There is a position I have on the legal system in the U.S. and I’ve thought a lot about where I start that conversation. I am a bit fearful of what it could mean if I speak out against some of it, but I also don’t think I’d do it anonymously because I think that loses its credibility. I don’t know… I want to keep discussing this with you.

  • This is a great post, once again I see this as one of the subjects within a curriculum that needs to be introduced into early education systems as part of a social media etiquette course. I don’t think “we” realize the reach, influence  and the impact (positive and negative)  we have within  this hyper socially connected society.

  • ElissaFreeman

    Great post – and yeah, I know PR Daily’s Anonymous quite well Gini. Always has something to say – and usually at. But to reveal him/herself…nope! Such cowardice. I’ve had to exercise such restraint and giving Anonymous ‘what for’…but for what? A back and forth of more of the same? No thanks. In this case, better to ignore than engage.

  • ElissaFreeman

    ginidietrich NancyDavis I don’t even know @NancyDavis – but I’m excited for her too!

  • ElissaFreeman NancyDavis YAY!!

  • ElissaFreeman You know, I started to engage with one of them because I actually thought he/she had a good point and I wanted to discuss it. But then I decided if they weren’t going to post as themselves, it wasn’t worth it.

  • Digital_DRK It’s a HUGE problem in high schools, as you well know. There surely is something we can do about it.

  • ginidietrich

    nmcgivney I like the attitude!

  • KevinVandever OKAY! I AM IN!

  • Danny Brown I can’t imagine anyone wants that, no. But I do wonder why so many are so reticent to say anything. You’re making my brain hurt today!

  • Karen_C_Wilson And…there are lots of people (myself included) who have thin skin. I take criticism really well, if it’s constructive. But I don’t take attacks well. I obsess even when I know I shouldn’t. So if something like this were to happen to me, my first instinct would be to retreat.

  • Corina Manea And you know what’s funny about that? It’s not a big deal. Mistakes like that are made every, single day. Why the heck would anyone jump on pointing it out and trying to make you feel badly? ARGH!

  • ginidietrich That´s the problem: people overreact to this kind of stuff, but for real issues, they keep quiet and can´t seem to find the words to speak up! It´s just sad!

  • ginidietrich  easy, we just have need to change peoples behaviors and attitudes and perhaps the odd bias here and there,

  • ginidietrich Pew had a fascinating paper out a year ago about “Social Media and the Spiral of Silence”.
    While it’s primarily about people and their comfort/lack of to talk about the Snowden/NSA case (because of who may be listening), it also looked at the growing phenomenon of people only speaking up on social when it looked like everyone else would agree.
    That takes away the courage to take a stand, and if we don’t fight against that mindset now – and support those willing to do so – then the web will be a very boring, very sanitized place real soon.
    And that would be a real crime.

  • ginidietrich Here’s another example. We both know two people – one a blogger and author, the other an agency owner. The agency owner wrote a review of the author’s book, and it wasn’t fulsome in praise.
    That author bullied and put down the agency owner for almost 12 months because of that review, to the point the agency owner daren’t join conversations the author was part of (or even mentioned in) for fear of further private abuse.
    Do you think the agency owner would have been braver had she been able to be anonymous and partake in the discussions with the author, knowing what she knew about him and his behaviour?
    Or think about friends of girls that are raped at college, or sexually abused, after getting drunk and the frat kids take advantage. Let’s say a Tumblr account is created to show pictures and videos of the girl being abused. The boys are saying the girl consented, and it’s only the friends of the girl (and others that were at the party) that know different.
    But the frat kids are powerful, with lots of sway. Go up against them, go up against more than just abusing little sh*ts. 
    However, anonymously, comments appear. Counter proof appears. Details of what really happened appear.
    For me, that’s the power and necessity of anonymity. We want an open web, but as your post proves, we’re far away from it. Sometimes the only way to fight back is from the shadows first.

  • danielschiller

    It’s always different in person, which is one of inherent flaws of contemporary communications. And with that in mind there are indiscretions, and the there are things that are just plain mean. In the case noted above, those tweets were just mean. There’s no way to spin that. Although it is a shame it ruined someone’s career.

    ginidietrich may I suggest the following for your list: don’t be mean, and only push things people really need to know. I mean like *really* need to know.

  • Great post.

    I will make this short. No I swear. And it will be perfect.

    If you disagree with someone present the reason why with facts to back up your reason for disagreeing. If you are just a hater who has personal issues…STFU and go away.

    I don’t get the mob. Other than we have so many people who need to be smoking pot and listening to pink floyd than just attacking good people because they have mental issues.

    Did I do good ginidietrich ?

  • ginidietrich I do have an issue with that survey report. Not sure how accurate it is. I find it weird CCO’s make so much more than CEO’s and CMO’s. But I will say that I am not surprised at the pay gap after 5 years experience. And the trolls who got upset need a chill pill. The good news is 128,987 people read the article and only 12 commented!

  • ginidietrich ElissaFreeman it isn’t the issue with ‘anonyomous’ as much as if you are going to be critical you need to present why in a way that proves your position right….like I always do.

  • Digital_DRK ginidietrich is 12 people a mob? Can tomorrows post research what qualifies as one 8) Because I need to know so I can create the right number of accounts to comment on the Millennial CEO site. I need to be a mob.

  • ginidietrich

    arikhanson Somehow we got to debating the tiniest of details. It was fun!

  • I’m trying really hard to comment on this, because I have a few points to make, but I’m actually afraid of being bullied. Not even joking. Therein lies the rub with SM mob mentality. It’s never black and white. Bullying wears all kinds of masks. The worst bullying (IMHO) is that which is couched in “legitimacy”.

  • Some of the comments on Gino’s article were dumb but I didn’t see bullying. One even started with how much they like her content just not this article .I also felt the supporting survey was extremely flawed based on the sampling. How can a CCO make 2x what the CEOs were making? Impossible unless the CEOs were me and the CCOs worked for fortune 500 companies.
    The real issue was the pay rate at the top for PR the bottom for new hires was a lot closer for men/women.
    And if bullying worked how much rush Limbaugh wasn’t fired he has thousands of people a day torching him on social media. Hobby Lobby still hates women. It really takes unique circumstances for this to work
    Under this pretext the jerk lady who ran Susan b komen would still have a job.
    So the question is more tact and not to cross certain lines. But if you tell the truth its not bullying or trolling.

  • belllindsay You still use your Yahoo mail account, miss? Just sent you an email. x

  • 1to1Discovery

    KC_Kreative I’ve been mobbed in the past. It was pretty scary, and it was only a small mob.

  • KC_Kreative

    1to1Discovery Ack. It does make me nervous when I voice my opinion on something…

  • 1to1Discovery

    KC_Kreative My mob was in reaction to a blog post, which leaves you a bit more vulnerable than just commenting.

  • 1to1Discovery

    KC_Kreative I thought it was a low controversy topic. Apparently I was wrong 🙂

  • Danny Brown belllindsay STOP MAKING FUN OF ME!!!! 😉

  • Howie Goldfarb ginidietrich  Good question Howie, My researched failed to find a definitive answer. However I did stumble upon this, which may help. 

    I think we can extrapolate from this roo data.

  • belllindsay The above only applies to  Danny Brown , everyone else still has carte blanche.

  • Digital_DRK Howie Goldfarb ginidietrich You can’t use roo data, it’s based on the Marsupial Code. Everyone knows it’s all about the Bovine or Mammalian Code.

  • Howie Goldfarb ginidietrich Yes  Danny Brown  know’s code….

  • I hope the Internet grows up. I had to take down a post because the first commenter completely twisted my intent and words and then others chimed in – without reading the post. It gets ugly way too fast.

    I’m glad you wrote this! Good on ya.

  • The rare time I’ll share a link to my own post, b/c this is spot-on what I was trying to say. Many of the comments reference these ‘shamings’ in the face of mistakes when in fact no one is ‘perfect.’ And that’s it: we expect perfection, feel justified in judging others.

    Per some other comments – there’s a big difference in discourse, discussion, disagree vs. bullying that’s targeted, that’s attacks for no reason other than to flame, ridicule like it’s a blood sport. See also: YouTube comments. I can be critical, I can not like something – and say so – without it being unprofessional or bullying. As you say, there’s a line we learn not to cross so if you think you feel it coming, slow down, back up and think again. 

    As to the anonymity – great convo w/ you and Danny Brown – I see both sides. I have a few ‘handles’ on some forum sites, FB G+ LI is all me. IDK this is a weird one; I’m much more likely to share something riskier on Twitter than FB, different audience different stickiness. But then I’ve also got my ‘play’ Twitter for the “off message” fun or anything controversial, which these days is almost anything. There’s freedom there, to not be judged by others for watching too much TV vs working, for a certain viewpoint being a deal breaker for potential job. When everyone is watching and judging, little seems “safe.” Probably why IG is all puppies, trees and food porn. FWIW.

  • Bruce Mendelsohn

    What this really boils down to is a mantra that is thousands of years old: “Judge not, lest ye be judged.” All the rest is commentary.

  • tnfletch

    Internet bullying needs to stop. It has become a real problem in our society and I worry about the message it sends to our children. We need to teach respect and acceptance of others, even if you don’t share the same point of view. It is okay to disagree, just don’t be a jerk about it.

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  • Christine Fisher

    Great post! Thank you for providing some much needed insight and possible solutions to the severity of cyber bullying. In my PR class, we recently discussed in detail the importance of social media in today’s day and age. Of course it is extremely important to be present and have a voice on social media. However, the consequences are rarely discussed. In my opinion, some people are present on social media simply to join the “mob”. Once something is said, or rather tweeted, it is out there for the world to read. Truthfully, we are all taking risks each and every time we post online. The fact is that people make mistakes-big ones. Sometimes we say things we don’t mean and unfortunately there is no going back. But should a human being be shamed to such extremes? Justine Sacco’s story is proof that bullying isn’t only seen on the playground anymore.

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