I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not the handiest guy around. I suspect that it’s an inherited skill. My buddy Mike is one of those guys who wakes up in the morning and says, “I’m going to build a new wing on the house. See you at dinner”. I, on the other hand, once had to leave a pile of lumber for a garage workbench outside for weeks until he could get over to “help” me build it. Although Mike didn’t allow me and my ineptness to do much more than play gofer, he did give me a piece of advice that I have found to be applicable in many situations that did not involve multiple trips to Home Depot: “Measure twice, cut once”. In non-handyman speak, this means think about what you are going to say or do before taking action. In our world of instantaneous communication there are many of us that should take this advice to heart.
Technology has a way of geometrically multiplying the consequences of even our most innocuous mistakes. As a result of the ubiquitous nature of social media the old “Reply All” mistake is now a mere localized faux pax in contrast to a misaddressed text’s ability to make you look like a doofus on a global scale. Twitter, for example, is a communications tool that enables us to tell the world our thoughts at the same time that they pop into our brains. I’m sure that the guy from the United States Green Building Council who sent the tweet this morning telling everyone how excited he was to be going to see the first LEED certified building in Haiti meant well. But in a country with a history of catastrophic earthquakes that has also had 32 governmental coups, I don’t think their dearth of “green” buildings has been their biggest problem. Or how about the guy who bragged about robbing the convenience store on Facebook? Although the local constabulary may appreciate his willingness to share, I suspect he’d like to take that one back.
Even large, sophisticated companies are not immune. Would certain members of Microsoft’s marketing team feel just a tad bit better today if someone had spoken up and asked, “Guys, do you really think publicizing a sewage powered data center is a good PR move?” A data center that runs on crap may be unique, but so are some of my family members’ rap sheets, and you don’t see me blogging about that, do you? I’m not saying that some people may not be interested in what you have to say, but you want them to be interested for the right reasons. Former Congressman Anthony Wiener thought some of his female followers would be interested in tweets picturing him in various states of undress. Much to his chagrin—and his wife’s—they weren’t.
So c’mon folks, let’s get our heads back in the ballgame. Let caution and decorum be your guide. Just because it’s electronic doesn’t mean that in the wrong hands your tweet, post or whatever, won’t be any less embarrassing than that time that your “Do you like me” note that you tried to pass to that girl got intercepted in 7th grade gym class. In fact, it will probably be worse since your mistake can extend far beyond the boundaries of your old junior high. Remembering the old measure twice adage is something we should all do because, unlike in home improvement, once your message is sent you can’t just toss it into the scrap pile.