Now that so many of us are blogging, commenting, Twittering, and generally leaving breadcrumbs everywhere we go online there is a semi-permanent record of our behavior. Add to that the fact that many of us have the same name as other people (apparently there is a 15-year-old in Minnesota with my name...check out www.rachelhappe.com) and the general public can get a rich collection of information by which to make judgments about who you are; some of which may be accurate, some my be outdated, and some may not even be applicable.
I worry, now that our casual commentary is generally available, that many of my off the cuff musings could be wildly misinterpreted or taken out of context in a way I never intended. I'm not the type of person who ever means to be disrespectful, dismissive, or offensive. But I do have a dry, sometimes teasing, sense of humor...the type of humor that often does not come across well in text. I realize this and try very hard to not share those types of comments in email and text, particularly with business colleagues and others who may not know me that well. The problem?!? The more conversational and dynamic the social media tool - Twitter for example - the more likely I am to treat it conversationally and I do occasionally slip. I can only hope that the recipient 'gets' it.
Which gets me to forgiveness. I occasionally need other people's forgiveness. I have faults like anyone else; I can be impatient, I can be 'funny' when it is not appreciated, I can forget to follow-up with people, and I can say things that come out differently than I mean them to. In this age of overload - of information, of tools, of 'best practices' - it is pretty easy to take a mis-step. But now it is stored for as long as those Google datacenters last. So we need to be more forgiving and I don't think as a society we are there yet. We blame our sleep deprived political candidates all the time for saying the wrong thing. We often take words out of context and use them to demonstrate our points. We get angry because people don't ask our opinion or don't listen to us. We fight over who is right or who owns an idea or a project. Working with other people is hard because we can't just pick out the ones with whom we have a mind meld.
Because social media can now store all of this complexity in working with one another it is extremely easy to point to one thing someone did or said online and judge them harshly for it. Here is my pledge to try and repent and be more forgiving. Social media will force us all to come to terms with accepting both the strengths and the weaknesses in others - I hope we are all collectively up for it.