Disclaimer #1: This post is not inspired by anyone I know personally, just things I’ve observed on social media and my thoughts on it. Also, the intention of this post is not to claim or imply that I’ve never made an ass of myself on the web. I have. Repeatedly.
Disclaimer #2: This post is only loosely tied to writing…
I follow a handful of celebrities online (maybe a couple dozen on Facebook, a couple dozen on Twitter, and half a dozen on G+). Once in a great while, I’ll comment on their statuses or reply to their tweets, or even mention them in a tweet, but it doesn’t happen often. I’ve had a couple of “celebrities” reply to my tweets (and even had one thank me for mentioning him in an article I wrote for Mashable a million years ago). So I don’t view it as futile to try to interact with celebs on social media. If they didn’t want to interact with people, they wouldn’t be on social media.
What I’m about to talk about seems to be more prevalent on Facebook than anywhere else, but I’ve seen it on virtually every social network out there. It usually goes like this: a celeb posts something profound, deep, hilarious, or even a little boring, and there are a handful of comments that are semi-related to the topic (and often half of them are borderline-illiterate), and then, inevitably, begin the comments along the lines of “I want to have your baby!” or “You’re so hot!” or things that I will not repeat on this blog in case there are children or people with taste reading.
Now, I’m not gonna lie, there are times and certain celebs where I am thinking all the inappropriate things these people are saying. But I have this internal filter that prevents me from actually saying these things to a complete stranger. That’s what people tend to forget about all these celeb interactions: these people do not know you. They would not recognize you on the street, they would not take your phone call if you somehow got their phone number, and they would not invite you to their wedding or their kid’s birthday party. They do not know you. And as much as you like to think you know them because you follow their every tweet and status update, you don’t know them.
So why would you say something to these people that you wouldn’t say to anyone in real life? Would you walk up to a complete stranger on the street and say “I want to have your babies?” (Note: the correct answer is “no”, so if you said “yes” you might want to talk to someone about that.) Would you, sober, scream out in a crowded room that someone you’ve never met is hot? In front of their family and friends? Again, that should probably be a “no.”
It’s an epidemic on the internet. It’s like everyone loses that internal filter that tells them what they should and should not say the second they log on. Granted, some people don’t have that filter in real life, but the ratio is way off online.
This leads to other issues. It leads to trolling and people feeling like they can just say whatever they want when they’re online without consequences. Remember: there is a human being on the other end of whatever you’re saying. I don’t care if they’re famous, internet famous, or completely unknown, they’re a person! Sure, celebrities might be a little bit more used to people saying inappropriate things, but does that mean they like it? I’m guessing not for the majority of them. I’m guessing some of these things embarrass them. I bet they get uncomfortable when reading some things. And here’s the worst part: I bet they censor themselves because they know certain things they post will elicit a certain type of undesirable response. And that’s where everyone loses out, because we’re getting a less authentic interaction.
On that note, here are my three basic rules for interacting online. The goal here is not to stifle free speech or tell people what to do, it’s simply my own personal guidelines for how I interact with people, especially people I do not know in real life (who are more apt to get my special brand of humor), when online.
1. Remember that you’re dealing with people. Living, breathing human beings are on the other end of every comment you post.
2. Treat people the way you want to be treated. If something would make you feel uncomfortable if someone else said it to you, why would you say it to them?
3. Before posting anything online, ask yourself if you’d say the same thing to someone’s face. If you wouldn’t, why would you post it online for the entire world to see?
Following those three basic rules has kept me largely out of online embarrassment (there have been exceptions). I know that if I were to ever meet any of the celebrities or others I follow online, I wouldn’t have to be sitting there thinking, “I hope they don’t remember that thing I said that time.” Considering I want to be involved in the film industry, I hope there’s a good chance I’ll meet (or work with) some of these people in the future. So maybe that’s the difference: I view them as potential colleagues, while others view them as these unreachable figures that they will never, ever meet.