I was reading a blog by my friend Ciara Ballintyne about a misunderstanding she had with someone on Twitter that left her a bit stumped. Read her blog about it here.
I had a similar incident when I had only been on Twitter a few months. A young man followed me. He let me know that he had bought my book. I thanked him for doing that. After he read it, he said he loved it and was going to leave a review on Amazon that weekend. Of course I immediately thanked him for taking the time to read it and to let me know on Twitter how much he enjoyed it. The weekend came and went with no word from him. Now, I'm a busy person and it's no secret that I hate writing reviews, so I am the last person to push someone for a review.
He didn't have anything published, so I had already joined his blog and made some polite comments on his posts, but he did not respond to me on the blog or on Twitter. When he tweeted that he landed a publishing deal. I congratulated him, but again, no response. I finally sent him a direct message telling him that I would like to return the favor and buy his book. I asked if he had a publication date. Nothing. Nada. No response at all. So I wished him the best and moved on.
But honestly, it bugged me. Why would it bother me that I may have offended someone I don't really know? The problem is...I didn't do anything wrong. Not that I know of anyway. I went back and looked at my tweets to him and my comments on his blog, and I couldn't find anything that looked offensive to me. I didn't get it. Since he won't respond to me at all, guess I'll never know.
One of the major problems I have had with social media since I started this adventure last year is the fact that I have to depend completely on the words people write to try to decipher their meaning. Working in psychology for as long as I have, I didn't realize how completely dependent I am on non verbal cues when I communicate. Body language is a HUGE part of communication, and without it, I feel blind.
I tend to be a little sarcastic (ok, maybe a lot sarcastic), so I really have to watch how I word things with new people because sarcasm doesn't always translate well and sometimes comes off just sounding mean. One would think that 140 characters would limit the amount of trouble you could get into, but I've pissed people off using a lot less.
The point I want to make is similar to Ciara's. If someone says something ambiguous on a social media site or in a blog comment that you don't understand, ask for clarification. Don't be overly sensitive. It's easy to misunderstand someone's words when there are no body language cues to let you know what they really mean. Give people a chance to explain themselves.
That being said, don't confuse a misunderstanding with people who are blatant douchebags. That's why they have "Unfollow," "Unfriend" and "Block." Don't be afraid to use them if someone is obviously being cruel.