Project Management

Big Yikes: A Crash Course in Avoiding Social Media Blowouts

We’re in the business of self-marketing. How do you self market? With social media obviously! Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Youtube, all the usual hives of scum and villainy. Come along as we figure out how to not make those places worse than they already are, and positively interact with each other in public social spaces.

Just….don’t do the things…

On the surface, this would seem obvious. Simply don’t engage in the behaviors that would lead to some kind of internet-based quarrel. By sheer virtue of the fact that this is still an issue, we’ll start with a quick run-down of the ways you should ideally be presenting yourself and interacting with people online:

  • Fulfill all your promises and obligations
  • Engage in a professional and/or friendly manner as appropriate
  • Be able to recognize your own mistakes
  • Never say something on social media that you’re not ready to have attached to you forever
  • Don’t be a jerk
  • Don’t use racist, homophobic, transphobic, etc. slurs (I can’t believe I have to say these things)
  • Recognize that context is important, and that stripped of it, you run the risk of being misunderstood

But sometimes you don’t have control over an impending blowout. Let’s even assume you’re not the sort who feeds off of internet drama. You’ve done everything you’re supposed to, but you still see a fight on the horizon. How do you handle it?

For Business Deals: Get Everything in Writing and Keep Screenshots

It’s likely you’ll already have been doing the majority of your communication via text. This is  a good thing. If you’ve thought ahead, you may have even screen grabbed everything for safety. If you haven’t already, start now. Be able to pull those receipts if something goes sideways.

A quick tip: Discord, Skype, and most other IM programs let you edit your message afterward. This means you run the risk of not being able to get messages in their original form. E-mail, however, doesn’t have this problem. Once it’s sent, it’s sent. So keep the big ticket items (like contracts and payment agreement) as part of an e-mail chain, and use IMing for smaller things.

Now what do you with these? Nothing…yet. Just keep them sorted and ready. This will help you go back through your conversations to make sure there’s not a misunderstanding, and allow you backup proof in case a blow-up devolves into he-said/she-said and spreads to public forums.

Handle Things Privately for As Long as You Can

Let’s say things are starting to go down hill. Someone who you’ve done work for isn’t paying you the agreed upon amount.

It’s okay to call in a friend or colleague for advice to get a different perspective, but the instant you post about it on Twitter, you’ve opened a Pandora’s box. You cannot pack those worms back in the can, and the more people that get involved, the more things are likely to erupt into something you can’t come back from. So while social media can be very powerful tool to right a wrong, you want to handle things as privately as you can for as long as you can. Be patient, exhaust all your resources, and explore every avenue available to you to resolve the issue one on one.

Are you going through a third-party freelancing site that can help you? Are there are directors or producers on the same project? Do they have a boss above them within this particular production studio? That’s not to say to cast aspersions upon them or try to ruin their relationship with other clients or bosses. If someone’s not giving you your commissioned piece after you pay them, for example, don’t go complaining to their boss at their day job.

Remember that the true end-goal isn’t spite or to get someone fired. It’s to have your agreement honored with the secondary intention of saving others from the same headache. Blowing up someone’s notifications isn’t necessarily going to do that.

So When DO You Take it Public?

Some might argue that’s there’s never really a good time to bring grievances to a public forum without having this shade of drama to it. There’s a lot to be said for the ability of closed groups and word-of-mouth to spread the word that someone’s not kept their end of a bargain or been difficult to work with. I’ve had to do that myself, dropping a quick heads up into a number of Skype chats with a screen grab of a conversation with a producer with whom things went awry.

There’s also something to be said about the pressure of public scrutiny.

If you decide it’s in your best interest to draw attention to bad behavior via a social platform, you have to be very careful how you go forward with it. Your intention is going to read even in text. If you come at it with anger, you’ll just seem spiteful. Be careful. Be measured. Don’t post anything anywhere without a clear and cool head.

Easy trick: write what you think you want to say in a word document or a draft or something similar. Then don’t post it. Sit on it for a day, maybe two. However long it takes for you to be able to come at with an overall feeling of neutrality. It’s only then you’ll be able to judge your own language usage and whether it’s overly aggressive or seems like you’re trying specifically to pick a fight. The last thing you want when potentially starting a row is to be accused of histrionics. You’re trying to be taken seriously.

After waiting, you may even decide that you don’t want to have this fight. That it’s not worth it. Which leads us to one of our next considerations.

Be Ready for the Aftermath

I’m not intending it to seem like any little public confrontation is going to turn into a Twitter feud for the ages. Most of the time you’ll post “hey, this guy is refusing to give me the commission I paid for, don’t work with him.” You’re friends will go “wow, what a jerk.” Then the person in question will either be so embarrassed they right their wrong (yay!) or still keep doing what they’ve been doing now everyone just knows about it (probably).

When and if things go bad, though, they go bad hard and they go bad fast.

Scummy people have scummy followers, and it’s hard to know what those followers can be incited to do. I’ve known people who’ve done everything right (to the point of full on litigation), and the opposing party was the one who decided to blow it up online. This lead to doxxing and harassment and general unpleasantness for a person who had decidedly played by the rules. People can be awful, so if you put yourself out there you have to be ready.

Pick Your Battles…and You’re Battlefield

Let’s look at a paraphrased case study.

“Joe” pays some well-known producers for a product. When he receives said product, he’s unhappy with it. fine. He contacts Producer A about a refund or some other compensation. Producer A says “sorry, we can’t do that. We had an agreement, and we’ve fulfilled our side.” Joe doesn’t like this and makes enough of a fuss that Producer A passes it off to Producer B because they don’t want to deal with it anymore. At this point, it can be hard to pick out whether Joe is in the right or the producers are. Is Joe being a problem customer or did the producers give him a shoddy product? As outside observers, we may never know, and as long as they kept their interactions professional, there may not be a “right or wrong.”

Joe is informed by Producer B, however, that he was a bad client for xyz legitimate reason, and he will not be getting a refund, thank you very much. Joe is now in a very delicate and possibly embarrassing situation. They have evidence to suggest that he’s the one truly in the wrong, and he runs the risk of being outed as someone unfit to work with, a deathblow in his particular profession. At this point, it’s very likely in Joe’s best interest to just let this one go. He’s still got a usable product, and he can very easily slink off with his tail between his legs without anyone else knowing about this exchange.

He doesn’t do this, though. He continues to message the producers to the point they’re feeling harassed. He’s even accused of sending threatening messages. He says he didn’t do this, but has no proof that he didn’t while they have evidence that he did. Without being called out by name for his alleged behavior, he’s quietly kicked from a closed group. He then reveals himself as the accused to individual members of the group by sliding into their DM’s with desperate pleas of innocence. At some point he openly admits to trying to involve one of Producer A’s other totally uninvolved clients in an attempt to endanger their livelihood.

It’s only at this point that the producers feel the need to say anything publically (on Twitter, specifically), thus expanding the pool of people who knew about this situation from maybe a dozen to several thousand. He’s now been marked by that, and no one will work with him any longer.

Now, the inciting incident was sort of nebulous. It would be hard to pass definitive judgement based on the information provided were we asked to. That’s not the issue. At any point in the overall altercation, our friend Joe could have backed off. He could have deescalated. He could have had even a moment of self-reflection and looked at all the possible ways this could go bad for him. He could have ended this before he basically tanked his own career.

Whether an altercation starts online or ends online, you always have the power to disengage. You may have to eat some crow or cede some territory, but it’s worth it to win the war and keep your career and/or sanity intact. In this crazy modern world where the internet gives us these notions of anonymity, we feel emboldened to be more aggressive and “win.” Choosing to not fight, though, when something gets out of hand, can be just as effective as trying to force some kind of conclusion.

That’s not to say all fights are pointless. Far from it. You very well may run into situations where you have to publicly take a stand on a matter or defend your own words. If you’re not the sort to get into prolonged social media spats, then you’re more likely to be taken more seriously when you have an actual issue you’d like to address that requires social media attention.

When Your Hot Take…is a Bad Take

We’re assuming you’re not the trolly sort of person who says things just to get a rise out of people…right? So, generally, when you tweet something, you mean it. Maybe it’s not a fundamental aspect of your being, but there’s an amount of sincerity there. Perhaps, despite your best intentions, your opinion faces a certain amount of backlash that you didn’t expect, and you’re getting a lot of heat in your replies.

Before you jump down anyone’s throat or lash out at your followers and friends, figuring out why you’re getting these reactions, first, is going to give you a better idea of how or even if you should respond to the situation.

Maybe, without malicious intent, you’ve expressed an opinion that doesn’t take into account viewpoints other than your own or is so heavily grounded in your own culture that it reads poorly outside that sphere. We’ve all seen those tweets that are borderline some -phobic or -ist or and you can feel the cringe crawl up from your gut. So look at how people are replying and double check that you didn’t accidentally become That Guy. And if you did? Apologize. Follow up with “Hey, I didn’t see it from that perspective.” Then just leave it. You’ve said your piece. Despite its proficiency at virality, the internet has a short working memory. Move on and learn from your mistakes.

Let’s say this negative feedback is something more subjective. Maybe you’re being summarily called out over your analysis of a piece of media. Healthy, critical discussion is fine and can be a fun time for all if handled respectfully. As we all know it doesn’t always go that way, and minor interpretive disagreements can become destructive and circular. At that point, you have to decide whether an anime ship is the kind of hill you want to die on. Like we’ve discussed before, you always have the option to disengage.

Learn to Spot When You’re Wrong and How to Apologize For It

At some point, there’s a possibility that you’re going to be the bad guy. When and if that happens, recognize that hey, you made a mistake. The try to fix that mistake to the best of your ability. That might mean coming to some kind of arrangement with someone you have a business dealing with, agreeing to disagree on a matter, and/or publicly acknowledging your error.

During all this be sure to actually apologize and do it sincerely. None of this “I’m sorry you were offended” or non-apology stuff. We can all read that sort of thing between the lines. Show some actual remorse and contrition. Not just in words, either, in action. If you say your sorry for breaking someone’s window, then go and break their window again the next day, that previous apology is retroactively ruined. Actually let yourself learn from your missteps, so that you can become a more productive version of yourself.

None of this means that you should just say whatever with the intent on fixing it later. That’s a major problem we all keep seeing. Celebrities and internet personalities getting away with saying and doing awful things and never getting called on it ever. And we all know how frustrating that is. You don’t have to be part of that problem. You have the power to put positive energy out into the world, and your social media interactions are part of that.


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