Abuse and Misuse: Unwritten Social Network Mores


Many people perceive outlets such as blogs, Facebook and Twitter as being carte blanche opportunities to speak their minds to whoever will listen. And I guess that’s truly what they’re for, but some folks just don’t seem to be able to connect dots very well and can’t foresee potential ramifications. Or, in other cases, they absolutely understand what they’re doing, and they’re pulling the wool over our eyes.

I’m sure we’re all guilty of having overstepped our bounds on occasion, whether speaking before thinking, or being a little too frank in our emails, when the perception of a joke can be taken wildly out of context. But those are often private conversations – one on one most of the time. Facebook, Twitter and blogs such as this one are public domain. Anyone can read what you say, and your words are relatively impervious. Heck, that’s the exercise that I’m purposely undertaking with – allowing my words to be publicly viewed and criticized in the efforts of becoming a better and smarter writer.

Furthermore, the bigger your stature (either professionally or personally) the more competent you have to be in guarding what you write. That’s why communications staff, public relations professionals and publicists exist to serve people in the public eye. In the last few days we’ve seen a shining example of why those in the spotlight need to measure their commentary and temper their exuberance. Or in other words, think before they speak.

Alberta MLA Doug Elniski sure had a good time on his blog and on Twitter; at least until he was called out. One comment he posted on his blog, which was aimed at graduating young girls, was “men are attracted to smiles, so smile don’t give me that ‘treated equal’ stuff, if you want equal it comes in little packages at Starbucks.” Apparently he was referencing a comedy act he once saw, and said it was a joke. Pretty funny stuff… Full Globe and Mail article here. In another instance, he alerted his Twitter followers to a bikini car wash “where girls look cold.”

Good lord! Never mind holding your tongue for the sake of decency – this guy’s an elected public official, maintaining a legislative seat in our provincial government! No wonder everyone thinks Alberta’s completely out to lunch and too late to save. As I tweeted today (and to let you know, my comment was rather inflammatory and therefore re-written about four times until I calmed down), “Your taste in humor reflects a major lack of values & sensibility. Your words justify Canadians’ perception of Alberta entirely.”

For more of the Rural Alberta Comedy In Session Theatre, follow Mr. Elniski on Twitter (I dare you): @ElniskiMLA (note: his blog had been taken down at the time of writing)

One only wonders where Liberal leader David Swann is on this. Why isn’t he ripping this regressive, conservative government apart, especially after the Premier confirmed that no disciplinary action would be taken? There is headway to be made, especially after Finance Minister Iris Evans’ activity last week. Two spectacular opportunities to show voters how out of touch and archaic our governing politicians are.

Another swipe at the abuse of social media is “celebrity blogger” Perez Hilton, who was in Toronto for the MuchMusic Awards this week. (disclaimer: guh – I can’t believe I’m writing about this drivel, but it makes a good example!) At an after-party, Hilton was allegedly punched by a manager for of the Black Eyed Peas. Rather than use his phone to call police or his lawyers, he hopped on Twitter to plead for help from his global gathering of followers. Apparently he thought that a throng of 12-year-old pre-teens in Kansas would call the police for him. His Tweets included, ““I’m in shock. I need the police ASAP. Please come to the SoHo Metropolitan Hotel now. Please,” which should, I suppose logically, have resulted in the cops showing up. And who knows about dialing 9-1-1 anymore… Maybe he thought Canada doesn’t have it?

What’s ridiculous about this, is that what’s really going on here is a big pubic relations exercise – it’s drawing “followers” in to what they think is a participatory role in Hilton’s debacle. Don’t think for a second that his fans aren’t even more devoted, and that his fandom hasn’t grown exponentially. I have a feeling this is all manufactured, which will bolster the newsworthiness of a crappy band (if that’s what you call them) and a crappy blogger. I’m sure he’s back at his home in LA-la-land, furiously typing for his blog, and smirking at the glorious results his black eye has earned him. The full Globe and Mail article is here.

See, if you’re a person and nothing more celebrity than that, you’re welcome to say whatever you want. Though even then you better know who your friends are and who you’re potentially barring from being your friend. Everything in the digital social environment is documented – it’s written and published fact. Some people just don’t seem to get that.

About the author cdub

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  1. Yeah. Why is it ever a surprise that people are listening?


  2. […] It’s quite baffling how only a couple of weeks ago, folks like Doug Elniski could make idiotic public comments about girls at car washes or embarrassingly make headlines as he provided unadulterated views on […]


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