5 Ways to Resolve Social Media Misunderstandings and a conversation with @swpax

English: Infographic on how Social Media are b...
English: Infographic on how Social Media are being used, and how everything is changed by them. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Misunderstandings happen. They happen on Twitter. They happen on Facebook. They happen in our lives.

Case in Point…

A few weeks a go, a teacher, Shawn White contacted me through direct message on Twitter. He and I had exchanged a tweet on a Friday night. Then, I got up Saturday and started continuing to write a post I had started earlier in the week. This post turned into “Questioning Rigor” and was prompted by Dave Burgess‘ ponderings in his book Teach Like a PIRATE.

Meanwhile, Shawn had messaged back and somehow the conversation had turned to this term of Rigor. Shawn feels that “vigor” is a better word to use and expresses it well in his blog post and also at the beginning of this recording. I understand his argument.

Well, our tweets, and my post were all sort of happening at the same time. He had texted me a link but I hadn't read it yet. I was offline writing and then posted my post. Shawn was offline when my post went live but got on later and after we had conversed a bit, heard I had written a post. At the time, he was a bit curious and perhaps a tad upset that I hadn't cited our conversation although later understood what happened.

Fortunately, he reached out to me on Twitter DM. He reached out for two reasons.

  • First, to make sure that I knew that although he'd read Dave's book that his own post came out of his own thoughts and wasn't a knock off of what Dave said since Shawn hadn't gotten to that part of the book.
  • Second, he just wanted to ask or let me know on the misunderstanding of his part as to my timing of the post just to get it off his chest.

I went back and looked at all the timings of the tweets and my post and realized that it was one of those things were two people really were thinking about the same thing at the same time. Similarly when Shawn pondered his own post – he knew that although it was in Dave's book that he had come up with what he said before he read that part of the book.

Yet the worries nag

So, if Shawn and I both knew that we were OK in our timing and our motivations were true. Why should we do anything about it? Why should we be transparent?

Honestly, there was no need to write this post. There was no need to have Shawn on my online show to talk about Vigor and Rigor and also discuss what happens when we have misunderstandings on social media. EXCEPT.

Except that this happens all the time. It happens. It happens even more now that social media is part of our lives.

A typical social media misunderstanding

I'm not going to say it happens ALL THE TIME with me, but perhaps 2 or 3 times a year.

Someone might tweet me a link and I don't have time to read it (I star them to Pocket and sit down and read links in the evenings b/c my students are my focus at school.) But in the meantime, I write or share something that I've been thinking. Then, I get a message “but my link was on that too and you didn't cite me.” Well, I didn't cite you because I hadn't read your post yet. It isn't a brushoff – it is just the reality of how all this stuff works that we can't pay attention to everything.

Some people make misunderstandings while others make friends

So, what was different about this time? First of all, Shawn talked to me privately. It took 4-5 Dm's but he shared his thoughts and questions with me. That took a lot of courage and transparency to do that.

I immediately thought to myself –

“whatever the outcome after I look back at what happened, I like this guy. He's courageous, transparent, and open and that is a trait of the kind of person who needs more attention in social media.”

Plus one for Shawn here. (OK, I know it is Twitter but go with me here. ;-)

Then, as I looked, I figured out what happened (as I shared above) and was open back with him. By this time, he'd already realized that there was no intent and what had happened and wanted to move on. Yet, then it opened up discussions about being honest and transparent about this.
In my opinion, Shawn handled this very well. I hope my own behavior stacks up as well.

Being transparent to help others

So, Shawn agreed to go on my online show, Every Classroom Matters, and we talked about the misunderstanding.

Meanwhile, after I listened to the show, I was a bit bothered and realized that if I would have included Shawn's Vigor instead of Rigor post, why not go back and add it anyway? If I see now that I would have included it, this is not a book, this is my blog and I can go back and add things as I see fit, so now, his post is at the top of the post where I would have put it had I read it in a different order anyway.

Work through misunderstandings and you might just make a friend

Now, I have someone new I follow more closely. Shawn is really a cool person and a courageous educator. I'm glad that I've gotten to know him just a tad better and hope to meet him in person.
I'm also amazed and proud that he had the courage to openly talk with me about the misunderstanding. Most would just sweep it under and move on.

Sometimes misunderstandings arise when no one even DOES anything but circumstances happen. But you don't have to let it go. You can talk about it. Here's how.

5 Ways to Reach out when you have a Social Media Misunderstanding

What to do with you think you have hard feelings on social media:

1. Look at the person behind the misunderstanding.

You know what kind of person they seem to be. Is this their persona. Would that person even care if such happened. Do they know you're there? If they haven't replied to you or had conversation, the likelihood is no. But, if they have followed you and engaged in conversation it is probably worth taking the next step.

For example, I think Michael Hyatt is great and follow him on Twitter. But he doesn't know me from Abraham's goat. Honestly, I don't exist to him. I'm ok with that. I learn enough from him to make it worth my while.

I'm not going to say that Michael doesn't have time for us “little people” but I will say that with all the dm's and people begging for his attention – besides the mention or two, I'm not that desperate to do what it takes to get his attention. I don't get into this idol worship sort of thing that seems to happen with the top bloggers. I learn a lot from his Platform University and that is great. Should I get to shake his hand and say thank you in the right venue, I will. But I know that I'm small potatoes in his area of expertise. My audience and network is educators and teachers and it thrills me to no end to be trusted by many of the best of them.

2. Reach out if it is appropriate, privately if possible.

I appreciated that Shawn DM (direct messaged) me. For those of you not familiar with Twitter, this is one of the best things about following cool people. You can send private messages to each other that often get read (if not overused.) I'm very careful to never use spambots to dm my followers and treasure that conduit by only using it for essential communication.

If someone doesn't follow you, you can't dm them. You could reach out publicly and let them know you'd have a question not for public view and if they're savvy, they might follow you so you can be private. Honestly, though, if they won't follow you, it is likely they don't care what you have to say, so you can just move on from there.

3. Expect good intentions

Some of the maddest things I've ever encountered is when people expect me to have bad intentions. When they actually think I'd try to do harm to another person. It is infuriating and a mischaracterization of who I am as a person.

So, when you contact someone, do it in a way that lets them know without accusing or attributing bad intent.

4. Choose words wisely

Word choice is important when you only have a few characters so ponder them. Be open to the fact you might have misunderstood. If you handle it well (like Shawn did) you might actually earn the respect of the person you're reaching out to.

5. You decide what to do about it

Of course, if someone treats you like “who do you think you are” you decide if you'll unfollow. It is likely that they're a very busy person and had no idea. You can move on. But you make your choice.

If this happens a lot with one person, you'll have to make a call. You can probably figure out if they're reading your work or if they're a spambot. Sometimes when you get copied a lot it is a compliment.

Finally, be hard to offend

I've found that “thin skinned” easily offended people tend to look for offense.
As my friend +Lee Kolbert  @teachakidd says,

“People don't think about you nearly as much as you think about you.”

Others say it like this:

“If you wonder what others think about you. They don't.”

In a world of people who are thinking of themselves, think of others. If someone reaches out to you asking about a possible misunderstanding, don't brush them off, look at it. If you have something you really think it is a problem, reach out.

Honestly, you might just make a friend.

Remember your noble calling teacher, we teach with our actions much more than we teach with our words.

Speak out

Have you ever had a misunderstanding on social media? If you shared about it on your blog or want to talk about it here in the comments, please add to the conversation. You're always welcome here to teach with your life. Include your Twitter handle so I can find and follow you too. Thanks!

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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Vicki Davis writes The Cool Cat Teacher Blog for classroom teachers everywhere