Beware of Social Networking

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2008

Interesting story in The Washington Post this morning. A student left a voice mail message on the Fairfax County’s COO home phone asking why schools hadn’t been closed because of snow. The student got a message back from the COO’s wife. She said, “How dare you call us at home! If you have a problem with going to school, you do not call somebody’s house and complain about it,” She included the phrase “snotty-nosed little brats,” and “Get over it, kid, and go to school!”

Now, you might agree with her. Problem is that message went viral thanks to Facebook and YouTube. Within a day hundreds had heard her message. And the COO’s family has received many crank phone calls.

There’s a lesson for us in that. I imagine that we’ve all been in meetings inside organizations where something gets said behind closed doors about another person or group. And if that statement got out, there would be hell to pay. Well, we live in an age where it is easy for a simple knee-jerk response to something to get recorded, and then spread faster than wildfire.

You can forget that you have a great reputation. You might even reek of integrity. But, all it takes is one comment recorded on a cell phone or Ipod, and you’ve got a drama on your hands. . . .And that can kill good will and any hopes you had of smooth sailing on the next big project with those individuals.