I’ve heard it said that there is no greater teacher than failure. Perhaps true at times, but probably safer to say that there is no more painful a teacher. The best teachers I’ve had seek to inspire far more than they actually seek to merely teach. And I’ve not yet found that same palpable inspiration from any failure I’ve endured. So perhaps it’s not the best teacher, but it’s clearly an effective one (once you get past the part where you feel like you got clobbered in the chest with a jackhammer).
It’s not without irony that I recently stumbled, quite seriously, in an area where I’m looked at to be a resource for others. I’m supposed to know this stuff cold, well enough to teach it. It was not my tactical knowledge or my state of mind that failed me. It was a failure of empathy.
I’ve told many people that there are basically three rules to follow if you want to stay out of 99% of the potential trouble in the world of social media on sites like facebook and twitter. They are as follows:
1. Don’t lie
2. Don’t fight
3. Don’t reveal secrets
For anyone who’s heard me say this before, I’d like to make some small but critical amendments to these three tenants.
1.1. Don’t lie, or appear to lie
2.1. Don’t fight, or appear to fight
3.1. Don’t reveal things that you or others consider to be secrets
These amendments highlight something important, something that has entirely and rather quickly reframed my perspective of what I will do online from this point forward. I think if I was asked about this a few weeks ago, I would have agreed with all of this, but I might not have fully grasped the magnitude of the difference between the old rules, and the new ones I’m proposing. This new way simply wasn’t the lens through which I was looking at the world. Thus, it wasn’t how I was filtering everything I shared online regarding stuff I’ve seen, heard, or done. I was following the original rules, and I was personally defining each time what it meant to lie, fight, or reveal secrets. The cold shower reality is instead that it doesn’t much matter what I think the definitions are. The definition of any of these rules is not a function of my opinion, but rather a function of anyone who might read and care about what I choose to share. And in the online world, we know this means anybody. Parents. Girlfriend. Old girlfriend. Co-worker. Friend of friend. Someone you’ll never meet. Anybody.
It’s not always easy to consider the views of everybody. And in some cases, there will always be dissenting opinions – I’m not suggesting that we whitewash the world in the hopes of finding a meaningless harmony. The point is this: the question isn’t if *I* think it’s a fight, lie, or revealing a secret. It’s “could anyone think that this is a fight, lie, or revealing a secret?”. And then having the wisdom and good sense to think critically about that question, and the people involved, instead of thinking about it entirely from my own myopic point of view.
I’m not a fan of making mistakes. Nobody goes out looking to make a mistake simply because they feel like they haven’t learned anything recently. It’s likely that I’ll make other mistakes in the future. But with some diligence, I won’t make this same one again. My sincere apologies to those involved; if you’re reading this, you know who you are.