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The Human Contract You Sign When You Use Social Media
Posted on April 5th 2014
We undoubtedly live in a hyper-connected world. We can tweet, talk on Skype, send messages over Whatsapp, chat on Facebook, “like” what our circle of friends is doing, upload a video to YouTube, pin images on Pinterest, upload a picture of the sunset from our smartphone, check our email inbox in case some life-changing event has taken place somewhere and, last but not least, work… all at the same time. That is, if our multitasking mode hasn’t seized up yet!
We’re currently accessible to more or less anyone in the world. It isn’t that hard to contact the Head of HR at Virgin or the Publications Director at Alienta, for instance. It has become really simple to connect with potential suppliers or clients. However, we shouldn’t forget that being accessible to everyone doesn’t always mean answering back. Being helpful doesn’t mean always helping out. Similarly, not failing doesn’t mean always getting it right. Not having a contract doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Not signing one doesn’t mean not accepting it.
Empathy is Connectivity
However, when we connect, we forget about what’s going on with the other party: how the other person we’re connecting with is feeling, what’s going on in their surroundings, what their pace is, what they could be doing at a given moment, how they feel, whether they’ve had a great day or a terrible one, whether they could be in trouble or going through a rough patch. At the end of the day we’re only people. I feel terrified by people who don’t even try to understand the person they’re in contact with.
The issue here is respect, empathy, taking into consideration and appreciating the other person. You can keep admiration, anxiety and ego to yourself, thanks. The issue here is not invading the other person’s “social life” every time an idea comes into our head but, rather, aiming to understand where and how people interact in each social web platform in order to understand when and how, in what way to interact with them and what tone to use. I’m sure your time is very valuable to you; so is the other person’s to them.
Think about and try to understand how the other party you’re trying to connect with relates to others, thinks, interacts, creates conversations, helps, entertains themselves, has fun and works. Then half the battle will be won!
The Unwritten Contract
Before invading or taking over any connection, understand that a human contract exists between both parties:
- Being able to connect doesn’t entitle you to connecting whenever you feel like it.
- We’re all protected by a circle of connection, resonance and alignment. Before contacting you should earn the right to belong to that circle.
- We don’t use Whatsapp to send doctoral theses or emails turned into messages. Perhaps don’t even use this service professionally, why would you even think you could connect with us using Whatsapp? And how did you even get hold of our phone number anyway?!
- Facebook messages perhaps aren’t the best place to talk about work or settle any doubts, more so if your profile doesn’t include a professional site I can contact you at. There may be a reason why you didn’t see a Facebook icon when you visited our website or blog!
- You can contact us without needing us to follow you on Twitter. If you want to get in contact, visit the website or blog. If two clicks is too much work for you, let us know and we can send you an email with a contact address.
- LinkedIn is a professional social network. Therefore, it’s an excellent place to make contacts, connections, to ask questions, get answers, take part in debates, consult or recommend. I wonder why we so often forget about this.
- If you decide to connect for whatever reason (help, consultation, projects), even if your intention is for the other party to do so altruistically, be serious, professional and fast; don’t beat about the bush and get to the point exactly.
- Leave your waffling behind, state your intentions clearly, what do you need help with? If you don’t know, we sure as hell don’t!
- Don’t try to take us for a ride, telling us stories that end up by you wanting us to recommend your product, visit your blog or extract useful information from us. That’s OK, many try to do just that but try being upfront about it. You’ll save us time and we’ll welcome your honesty and clarity in what your intentions are.
- We want you to be as truthful as you expect us to be.
- We answer your tweets and DMs, we RT, mention and support your initiatives and if we sometimes don’t, we hope you can forgive us.
- Talking about someone, about their business, recommending them, promoting them, using our influence to empower them, even donating. All of this is possible without following you on Twitter. What a revolutionary idea, don’t you think?!
- Remember that email communication tends to evaporate. So be sure to know what you can communicate by email, what requires a phone call and what requires direct contact.
- If we meet up through Skype and Google +, be specific and to the point, don’t beat about the bush. That’s the way to get further sessions in the future.
Keep your part of the contract
The word “connect” is simply fascinating. However, its meaning is still largely unknown by many. You need to understand the human contract you signed up to when you started using the social web, every time you connect and interact. This isn’t a piece of paper or a PDF file you store in your tablet; it’s a contract of principles, coherence, ethics and ideals. Whenever you don’t keep your part of the contract, we’ll ignore you.
Photo credit: Kirilo.