How to Prevent Social Media Entitlement Syndrome

(This article first appeared on on June 24th and was co-written by myself and @melissarowley.)

In a day and age when sharing our stories, favorite videos, political views, product reviews, intimate moments, photographs, and random rants and raves across multiple digital platforms is part of our daily routines, our content is consumed at an unprecedented rate. Being accessible in real-time all the time can bolster our business and personal brands. That is the upside. The downside is the manner in which social etiquette is being increasingly bastardized in the Web 2.0 sphere because of a misplaced sense of entitlement and set of expectations our readers, followers, and Interweb friends have from absorbing the onslaught of our digital footprints.One typical evening on Twitter a few months ago, Francisco Dao (@theman) coined the term social media entitlement syndrome. The dialogue I observed in my Twitter stream about SMES that night definitely struck a chord. As a frequent social medializer, I couldn’t help but wonder: a) have I ever had SMES? b) do I know people who do? c) can SMES be stopped?

The answers were a) yes b) yes and c) it can at least be mitigated. So after witnessing a series of events that have spawned misunderstandings, hasty judgment calls, and hurt feelings, Nicole Jordan (@nicolejordan) and I felt that the need for a Lalawag article on the issue could no longer be ignored.

The definition of SMES has a number of variations. Here are a few that we collected.
1. Feeling and behaving as if one should be granted certain privileges (event access, free products, job offers) because he/she is well-known in social media.
2. Expecting all-access to an individual’s private life because he/she occasionally posts personal items in social networks.
3. Acting like it’s acceptable and normal to piss (bombard w/comments, tweets, DMs) on someone’s social stream.
4. Demanding that people retweet your content, and resenting them if they don’t.
5. Assuming that because you correspond with someone via social media, you should be invited to every social gathering that person plans or is involved with.

It’s quite the catch-22. The main reason many people use social media is to connect with others. We connect by putting ourselves out there. The question then is where is the line in respecting privacy when so many of us are choosing to live publicly? As Francisco recently opined, “We’re dealing with a world where people think that it’s all community, as in community property.”

Being part of a community is one of the greatest perks that comes with using social media. But it’s gotten to the point that because so many people can see what we’re doing and who we’re doing it with that social boundaries no longer exist. There is no more reading between the lines because no one is drawing any lines. As a result, the same platforms that some communities have used to communicate and strengthen ties are becoming turn-offs for some people.

Much of the discrepancy may be due to the fact that people using social media have different agendas. Some use it strictly for business. Some for shits and giggles. Some for spying. And others use it simply to share and feel connected. And there are plenty of us that use SM for all of the above.

We talked to some of our online and offline friends and came up with a few common points for all of us who have been guilty of, fallen victim to, or grown weary of social media entitlement syndrome to keep in mind.

Business is Business, Not a Little Blue Bird

There is the old adage, “don’t shit where you eat,” which in a perfect world is great advice. But what if our professions require that we shit (network) everywhere? Are we to starve and live on nothing but a business cocktail here and there?

No. Becoming friends with people in our social media platforms and offline is beautifully human, not to mention fun. And though it’s often frowned upon, mixing business with friendship can be a wonderful experience. BUT being a social media acquaintance or a personal friend with someone does not mandate the pursuit of a professional relationship on either side. Our social networks, Twitter in particular, are extensions of our offline communities, where we share information, and we applaud and help one another. However, helping does not necessarily mean hiring.

The business and social lines or lack there of can be blurred in other ways, as well. Knowing who someone is through social media doesn’t mean we know them. People are only as transparent as they choose to be about certain aspects of their lives. We show people what we want them to see through social media. That’s not transparency, it’s strategic marketing.

We’ve heard countless stories about people who follow another on Twitter, are excited to meet the @, and then proceed to launch into a conversation with a tone that implies one expects the other to review something, respond to requests right away, get that person into an event, or that you’re now pals.

The term “friend” has become abused and is becoming devoid of meaning. We refer to our “social media” connections as friends so often that the word “friends” has become a throw-away term. Perhaps acquaintance sounds too cold for someone that you “share” with. But the truth is, you may follow an “influencer” and exchange some tweets, support with RT’s, drop some shout-outs so people saw you tweeting with said person, but none of that means you KNOW the person.

Relationships are more than 140 characters

Relationships, professional and personal, take time to develop. Lately, there seems to be a lack of understanding about this. Actions are executed at lightning speed in social media because they’re all done through a computer or a device. The problem is that we spend so much time plugged in that our ADHD-induced mentality is transcending into our lives offline, which reduces the value of putting time into cultivating important relationships with people. While connecting and sharing online can start a true friendship, it’s the time you spend together in person or on the phone, interacting, that really separates the wheat from the chaff, if you will.

Social media is enabling “Wedding Crashers.”

One of the beauties of the social web is that there is never a shortage of things to do. Your dance card can be full or empty, it’s up to you. People are always tweeting out and FB’ing events with open invitations, but more than once we’ve heard about gatherings that were meant to be private and ended up being was crashed by someone who saw it appear on a public timeline.

In one instance, a person ended up attending a private event at a home. When confronted after, the person said, “I didn’t think it was a big deal since so many people I knew were going.” The organizer became much more diligent about making events on Facebook private to prevent it from happening again.

Another example took place when a group of friends, mind you these were people who are actually friends, went out to dinner. Someone tweeted who was there and soon after three people that none of them knew showed up, said they saw the tweet and that they came to hang. No invitation was actually extended.

There’s much debate to the “if you want it private don’t tweet about it or keep it closed on Facebook” vein-of-thinking but what we’ve heard, and witnessed firsthand, is a pulling back and censoring of what people want to put out there. And not only that it’s starting to give rise to resentment.

Deciding what to share comes down to personal preference and knowing what your boundaries are and communicating them. If you really don’t want to have your name tweet-dropped because there’s a particular social media stalker just waiting for an opportunity to corner you in a private setting, let the people you’re with know so they can be sensitive to it.

Beware of social climbers

A term we’ve heard tossed around with much frequency is “social climber.” This can be a bit delicate as any person who appreciates social media can attest, the connections you make that you never would have otherwise is part of what makes it all so great. But, some people are starting to become more guarded with the people they meet through social media because they’re feeling used by others who appear to only want to make the connection so they can tweet-drop or FB you and up their street cred.

When we’ve heard this complaint it’s always followed with some qualifier like, “I don’t want that to come across as arrogant and that I don’t appreciate that someone is interested in being connected to me…”

This is, in part, a bit of the Twitter myth, no? The illusion that Twitter follower size or the appearances that you’re friends with a well-known @ is what creates influence. When someone starts to feel like they’re being “climbed,” one action we’ve heard is that they review that person’s tweets and evaluate the level of tweet-dropping, over-enthusiasm and level of aggressiveness to include themselves. If that person’s online actions tend to be geared toward “getting-in” and being “seen,” their target just might run even further away.

As stated earlier, both of us have been guilty of a little SMES. Everyone probably has at one time or another. To avoid falling ill with the syndrome keep these points in mind and most importantly try to remember, there is an entire world out there that has nothing to do with Twitter or Facebook.


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