Betrayal, Anger, Frustration, Ulcer…

Ok, not an ulcer, but this post has been stewing for a few days and I think it’s finally ready to be served.  But first, one of my favorite quotes from The Art of War (one of my Top 10 books), with my own addendum…

Keep your friends close,
and your enemies closer.

~Sun-tzu (Approximately 400 B.C.E.)

And keep your business associates as far the eff away as you can.
~PR Cog  (November 24, 2009)

Last week, great PR practitioner, David Spinks reminded us on his blog that he’s here (on social media sites, etc.) for business and not to be our friends.  For him it seems, if friendship develops, that’s great, but it’s not his primary purpose.

The only thing that’s really preventing me from getting completely up in arms is his response to the blog post’s first comment: “You’re absolutely right that we have to remember that everyone is not here for that purpose that you may be.”

Earlier in the response however he asks, “There are people in the social media space that are here just to make friends? Who? lol There may be some people who act like they’re here just to make friends, but I doubt that’s the real case.”

In case you’re wondering — I’m raising my hand David. (So is my proper self (who never talks business on Twitter), my Rabbi (who much to my chagrin is on Twitter), my Liberal Arts department head (with tenure) from college (who pretty much only talks about music by the Beatles and G. Dead on Twitter), etc.)

Need proof of my own intent?  How would a person with no traceable identity get or drive business without revealing themselves?  (And yes, until a few weeks ago there were under 10 people (PRBC-ers included) who knew my first name, and I believe 4 who knew my full name.)

Need more proof? In the half dozen or so events I’ve had the honor of pulling (or assisting in pulling) together between Masquertweet and PRBC never has a single dollar stayed in my pocket, an organization that I’m formally affiliated with benefited fiscally, or any business come my way.

Nota Bene: In case anyone is still confused, the name on Facebook is not my real name.  Properly read it should be PeteR COGnoscenti i.e. PR Cog (Cognoscenti does actually mean something – http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/cognoscente .  The name is a joke but FB requires a real looking name and so I grew one…).  I still introduce myself as Peter in-person since it makes more sense for those not in-the-know.

My single greatest SM joy (and I think I’ve posted this elsewhere) is introducing people, who don’t know each other, but I believe should.  That’s certainly not business (unless you’re actually a matchmaker).  But from what I’ve seen, and the thanks I’ve received, has been highly successful.

In part, I doubt the veracity of your post.  Not that you’re being dishonest, but rather that you’re really here for equal(ish) parts work and play, but that doesn’t make for great copy and given the option it’s always better to take the high (“professional”) road. You seemed to be having a good time (socially) at the meetup a few weeks back (which is the point, of course so it’s not a negative) and I didn’t see much work going on and yet the entire event was strung together based on social media.  Entirely possible I missed the work component but I likely would’ve heard about something that out of the ordinary (all kinds of tidbits make their way around – it’s a bit spooky really).

In part, I’m highly offended.  You want to do business — grand.  Then your bio (and anyone else who’s here just with work intentions) should only show business information and leave anything personal out.  For me, I’m rarely more annoyed than when a casual conversation turns into a business pitch.  I’d also be highly disappointed to discover I may have subjected guests at a social event to a sales pitch of some variety.  As indicated above, I don’t think this happened at our event, but for those with a single minded purpose it doesn’t seem like it would be a great leap.

Do I shun those on social media sites that are here for business primarily or solely — of course not.   But at least say so when we first interact, not some 6 months later (you started following me on June 29th — I don’t have the reverse date though).  For me intent is a big part of any motivation — a pure, honest intent can go far to correct mistakes.  Bad intent on the other hand … well, as they say, GIGO.

One point of clarification – do I believe there is gray between pure biz and pure play — of course.  It’s a large gray area IMHO that most of us fall into.  There is a vast difference between learning from our peers and colleagues in the course of conversation and coming to this playground with the specific intent to build your (or your company’s) brand or business.  Heck, I gain insight into our biz in social settings (even from non-PR-folks) all the time — I wouldn’t presume to call that business.

I came here to talk and play.  You came here for professional reasons.  I’m certain those I ‘speak’ with regularly know my intent when I engage with them.

Special thanks to Alex Tan for playing Devil’s Advocate (Factoid: an actual job in the Roman Catholic Church) with me over the last week.

8 thoughts on “Betrayal, Anger, Frustration, Ulcer…”

  1. I’m sorry that you feel betrayed Peter. That is the last thing I want is for people I consider friends to feel betrayed…

    I just commented on Nikki Chau’s response to my post and I think some of my points were relevant here so I’m going to share them again.

    When I connect with people online, it may not be for the sake of friendship, but that doesn’t mean the hope isn’t there. If I were to seek friendship first, then I’d be the most evil of them all, because the fact is I came here for business and to befriend someone for their “business value” is, well, evil.

    We need personal interaction, we need to understand each others’ needs. But personal interaction doesn’t translate to friendship. A friendship takes time and dedication to naturally develop over time. Note: NATURALLY. It’s not something you can force. I interact online but I can’t choose my friends. I will become friends with those who a naturally develop a friendship with.

    I’m not cold and I’m not 100% business. The very reason I am so passionate about the social aspects of business is that the traditional “corporate mentality” is being humanized and injected with personality. Yes I went to your tweetup and had fun with friends, but they were friends that I wouldn’t have if it weren’t for business…and to say the networking value of actually meeting some of my online friends didn’t cross my mind would be a lie.

    Just because my focus isn’t on making friends, doesn’t mean I won’t make friends and enjoy spending time with them outside of a “business” setting.

    I’m actually really friendly and I always try to help others whenever I can. I wrote that post more because, it’s a reminder I give myself sometimes, and it’s a reminder I thought the community needed. We get too caught up in the friendly/social aspect at times and forget the business part (the part we’re getting paid for).

    True, your Rabbi and your liberal arts department head may not be here for business. When I said, “There are people in the social media space that are here just to make friends? Who? lol There may be some people who act like they’re here just to make friends, but I doubt that’s the real case.” I meant in the marketing/pr/BUSINESS aspect of social media.

    The meshing of personal and professional is awesome and it’s dangerous at the same time. The incorporation of money/business into any human relationship is always going to affect that relationship.

    The point at the end is, be friendly, be personal, and be social, but not at the expense of being able to do your job well. You’ll make friends, it’s inevitable. So you don’t need to focus on it.

    I didn’t come here to be your friend. But don’t think for a second that I don’t value the friendships that I have made. I know others have taken my post the wrong way, but as I said in response to my good friend Keith Burtis’ comment on my post: “Friendships are invaluable. They’re real, and they make life worth living. If today I had to choose between a business deal and our friendship, our friendship would win every time.”

    Again, sorry if you felt betrayed, that was obviously not my intention. I hope that we can continue to build our friendship.

    David
    Community Manager, Scribnia.com
    @Scribnia

  2. Wait? so you’re saying that I can be friends with a persona you made up? You are a paragon of brotherhood. Do you realize how patronizing that is? It’s like if someone came up to you on the street and tried to get you to be friends with his puppet.

    Now the nameless man is standing on a soapbox and, through a fucking hand puppet, denouncing a real person who is trying to better themselves by talking to people. Introducing himself, striking honest conversation, and letting them decide if they like what he has to say. He’s a fraud right? Because the first thing he says when meeting a new person isn’t “Im about to engage you in conversation in the hopes of you someday improving my situation.”

    You are much better. Even through you decide to remain nameless and converse with your SM “friends” with a persona that you have made up. It’s all ok because the first thing you say when you introduce yourself as your puppet while opening and closing its lifeless mouth is “I wanna be friends.”

    1. Thank you Jon. Frankly, considering you’re a man of science I’m a bit surprised at how you stretch my statements to make them sound better for your argument. Are you sure you’re not a flack?

      David and I actually dm’d after this posted, I waited for him to be around to publish so it wouldn’t be an ‘ambush,’ and didn’t publicize the post myself. So for the purpose of this response I’m mostly responding to your comments, not David’s original post, except where noted.

      1) I do appreciate the irony that I’m discussing honesty — but you’re missing the point of my anonymity. My lack of a name affords me the opportunity to be among the most transparent around here. By way of example — I don’t have to hold my tongue for fear of someone who had a PR #Fail being friends with my boss or a so-called ‘friend of the firm.’ To take your analogy a step deeper — yes, I get to be the ventriloquist’s dummy who cracks a turtle wax joke at the bald man without fear of reprisal because everyone buys into the illusion.

      No one who engages with me thinks they are getting anything than my honest opinion with no underlying motivation other than to engage.

      2a) “striking honest conversation” is my point. If there’s a hidden agenda how can we call it honest? Personally I do think David is being honest because 1) we now know his reason for being here (and I applaud that honesty) and 2) I doubt even his intent here is purely business, but it makes for good writing and an entertaining and engaging post.

      2b) I never called David a fraud. But, from the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the definition of fraud (you opened the door here friend):


      1 a : deceit, trickery; specifically : intentional perversion of truth in order to induce another to part with something of value or to surrender a legal right b : an act of deceiving or misrepresenting : trick
      2 a : a person who is not what he or she pretends to be : impostor; also : one who defrauds : cheat b : one that is not what it seems or is represented to be

      I assume most everyone is in social media at least some point for business so I don’t think there’s an “intentional perversion” of the truth. I also don’t think there’s been an inducement to part with anything of value. [1a]

      “an act of deceiving or misrepresenting” — all depends on where in the great grey scale each of us falls. [1b]

      “a person who is not what he or she pretends to be” [2a] — Nope, David doesn’t really meet this threshold either. I come pretty close except that with the exception of my name and identifying information I get to be exactly who I really am. [2a]. 2b is pretty close to 2a so we’ll move on.

      Seems I think more highly of your college friend than you do. (Only a 60% guess at that one from 2 Google searches).

      3) I haven’t “made up” this persona. It is me. It’s me unworried about who I’m going to piss off or trying to make others happy — professionally or personally. I get enough of that at work and at family reunions. This ‘me’ has its fair share of haters. I don’t give a flying banana. I’d like to make friends but if I don’t I’m not worried about it.

      4) I never said I was better than anyone, anywhere at anytime. I claim to know nothing and yet strive to learn all the time. What I’ve learned today is that you are a self-described “narcissist” and “kind of a dick” (from your twitter page). Good to know!

      Now if you don’t mind (being completely honest here) I’ve got some better things to do.

      1. This is like arguing with a picture of a person on a wall. For the record, this is directed at the person who is sitting behind the computer screen, not the persona that IS “made up” because it doesn’t exist in real life.

        Thank you for proving my point. The fact that you are able to find out so much about me on a whim is what makes me transparent. Having to deal with the consequences of what we do is what makes us interesting. You talk about transparency but you speak through a character you invented with no past or perspective. You don’t seem to understand that your name is part of who you are. People have to deal with consequences for everything they do, but you don’t because this is not a person. It is a webpage, a bot, an imitation of life, albeit an extremely one-dimensional one.

        Your “illusion” (your word) gets to claim absolute honesty and integrity because it has no reality to defend or justify. You can keep flapping the puppets mouth and saying “this is the real me” in a voice that isn’t yours, but that won’t make it true.

        “I claim to know nothing and yet strive to learn all the time.” Is this a serious statement? What actual person would say something like this? Besides the fact that you have already claimed to know an awful lot about Spinks, honesty, transparency, the definition of the word fraud, morality, etc. Real people don’t get to say things like this because they have to admit imperfection.

        Feel free to define any of the words I used again, as well as post information about me or my past that I have made available because I exist in real life.

        1. *Sigh*

          I’m disinclined to continue a back and forth on this topic — it’s certain I won’t sway you and I’m unconcerned if I do. I will address a few points, however:

          * Direct it at whomever you’d like, you’ll get the same answer.

          * It’s obvious we disagree on a few basic premises:

          a) I do not believe what makes us interesting is “having to deal with consequences.” Lots of interesting people don’t deal with consequences well, or at all. For me, what makes people interesting (or not) is what they say, think, and do. I don’t give two shakes how someone deals with consequences if they’re blowing my mind with great ideas or concepts.

          b) Transparency and accountability are two separate things. My point in creating this persona is to get ideas out there without the baggage that is an identity. My lack of a history should most certainly be a factor into your (or more accurately, since we’re not in the same field, my colleagues’) evaluation of my commentary and opinions on a certain topic. That being said I have the amazing luck of being surrounded by peers who are able to evaluate an idea or opinion on its own merit and apply it (or not) to their own situation notwithstanding the pedigree of the person saying it. I’ll take these independent thinkers, over someone who needs to know where I sprouted from, and the name I happened to be assigned at birth, before they’ll consider an idea, any day of the week.

          c) That I can find that information does not make you transparent — it means you put it out there and could put your own spin on it — which isn’t transparency. I don’t allow who I am or my own history to become a factor in what I discuss. What does make me transparent is that I’ll give an honest opinion since I don’t have to be concerned about the repercussions and am able to be brutally honest. Most people can’t do that. Is my identity or history transparent — certainly not and I’m the first to admit that. But my statements and thoughts are, whereas most people have to hide at least some of their true opinions because it may be bad for their careers or reputation. Consider it a variation on Heisenberg’ uncertainty principle.

          It may just be that we’re having a language problem here — identity transparency vs. intellectual transparency.

          * I don’t force anyone to listen to me, and they certainly don’t pay attention because of who I am or my history, but there are those out there who do listen, so there must be a reason (or reasons). And those that don’t are certainly welcome to make that decision on their own and tune me out. That’s their choice to make and I certainly have no problem with that.

          Yes, “I claim to know nothing and yet strive to learn all the time” is a serious statement. The world changes, heck even scientific facts change over time. All I can do is seek to learn more every day. If that’s not how you operate – ok, that’s your choice.

          * Again you step outside the realm of reality —

          a) I never claimed to know “an awful lot about” David.

          b) I never claimed perfection. Ask anyone I speak to on a regular basis – I make mistakes all the time. I’ll make some today and am pretty sure I’ll make mistakes tomorrow and each of the following days until I take that great dirt nap.

          I too exist in real life Jon. The fact that you know nothing about the person (or persona) you’ve decided to spend so much time corresponding with is becoming plainly obvious. You know nothing about me – what I’ve done (this persona, not my flesh and blood self, of course), the lives I’ve touched, opinions or courses of actions I’ve changed, the people I’ve put together to both of their benefit, or anything else about me.

          And frankly … I don’t give a hoot if you do or don’t.

  3. It may seem like the reason I keep posting is just to be contrary, and that certainly is a part of it, but the truth is that I enjoy the back and forth. The idea of personal simulacra on the internet is current and interesting, and your ideas on it differ from mine which makes this exchange worthwhile.

    Amazingly enough, I agree with everything you say about taking ideas on merit and not the source. The problem is, we are not discussing the spread of information and ideas, we are talking about friendship. Perhaps the problem is our definition of friend? For a me a friend is someone with whom I have a some sort of emotional connection, usually through shared experiences. People who I can invite into my home or ask to pick me up at the airport. People who I can rely on when it comes to the things that are important to me. Yes this requires a name and a face, a past and a history, an existence if you will. You can never be friends with a persona simply because it isn’t real.

    If I may briefly steal your counterpoint structure:

    A) You do claim to know an awful lot about several things, but since you only mentioned Spinks, you claim to know both his intentions and level of honesty very clearly. Apparently you claim to know that the world changes as well.

    B) A mistake is an action with undesirable consequences. If there are no consequences for you then there can be no mistakes, and saying that there are is just an attempt to give your paper persona false humanity.

    C) Access to information about me is EXACTLY what makes me transparent. You say it allows me to put a spin on my past but I cannot control what comes up when you put my name into google. You say your anonimity(?) gives you the opportunity to be more open, but it also gives you the opportunity to be decidedly false in everything you say, and not give anyone the ability to call you on it. You can say this is “the real you” but everyone has to take your word on it. That is the opposite of transparency, you are opaque.

    What you have created is a speaker box to talk through without anyone being able to see your face. Your ideas might have merit, but who would be friends with a speaker?

    1. Hey Jon –

      I too am enjoying the back and forth (and I also share some of that contrarian nature).

      It does seem we are discussing different trains of thought that have a point of intersection. In our discussion I was primarily addressing the use of this persona generally, not specifically related to friendship. I happened to be addressing DS’s post on the friendship topic which is where we overlapped. I’ve only had the pleasure of meeting David once, at a relatively loud and large event. So while it’s doubtful we’ve reached ‘friend’ stage (particularly now) I haven’t closed off the possibility. I was simply taken aback by his original post since each interaction I’ve had with him (mostly online), and see him have with others, seemed warmer than a business-minded exchange.

      I do actually agree with your definition of friend (I use ‘visit me in the hospital’ rather than airport pickup since in NYC picking up someone at the airport is a bit ridiculous as there are plenty of us that don’t have cars and taking a cab to the airport to then take another cab back seems a bit odd. That and a hospital visit can actually be more burdensome emotionally).

      I certainly don’t consider everyone I converse with online a friend (an ‘acquaintance pending friendship’ is a very large category, however). There are those I have met that I still would not call on for such a task. From organizing events and working together on projects, however, there are a few dozen I’ve initially met online I would consider friends and I know would take time off of work, drive several hours, or otherwise put themselves out for me in my time of need and have done so. One example I previously blogged about can be found here – http://prcog.wordpress.com/2009/08/17/be-reliable/ (it does spiral into a discussion of professionalism, hence the post).

      Would it be more streamlined and natural to form friendships if I gave background on where I went to school and had a geographic region and/or school history to share – yes. Does this mask add an extra step when establishing a true friendship until we do have a shared history and have spent ‘quality time’ together – yes. It’s an extra step I’m willing, and other seem willing to take.

      Re: Your bullet points.

      A) I based my post on what I read in DS’s original post and my own experiences with him; by no means the entirety of a man. I thought I had enough hedging language in there (e.g. “it seems”) for that to be clear. In retrospect I could have been more verbose in what I was basing my response on. I also tried to make it more conceptual (since there were a number of like-minded comments) than specific to David.

      B) There are plenty of consequences for me. They just don’t run into the realm of my ‘real self’ (a line I’ve had to draw because of my industry-related snark). I’ve been using this persona for nearly 18 months, have established a small group of friends, a larger group of acquaintances, and a decent number of people who just like to hear me spout off about clients and bosses. At this point it’s certainly not a fly by night activity. Comments do come back to bite me in the rear.

      On more than one occasion I’ve ticked someone off to the extent they’ve called me on it. The most notable (and documentable) was actually against the PRBC (PR Breakfast Club – an industry blog I have the honor of working on). A comment intended to be taken humorously was not. I paid for that one for weeks. More details at http://prcog.wordpress.com/2009/09/29/i-too-can-be-an-ass/ . I’m also predicting that I’ll hear from a few of them that they’re upset I brought up a past issue again (Hi guys).

      There are plenty of other offenses against others I’ve committed, the consequences of those are just usually privately expressed (as is often done in real life friendships) and so not so easy to point to or summarize, but they do come back to me. Do these offenses impact my professional or non-online-personal life – not usually. But the possibility of that line being crossed is itself a potential consequence.

      C) True. No one is able to factcheck my background. I could be a freshman in college studying sociology who is conducting an experiment. The earlier topic of taking ideas on their merit (and not their source) is part of the reason I leave all of that behind. I’m the first to admit I went to a small college and grad school, that while providing a good education, is not highly regarded. When discussing industry topics I fully acknowledge that I’ve never had to use social media for a client and am constructing an argument solely from what I do have available to me – logic, rationality, other examples from the field, etc.

      Those that decide to engage with me take it on faith that I’m being honest and those who have reached “friends” have been able to confirm some degree of what I’ve provided as my background.

      I like your last comment for two reasons. The first is completely unrelated – as a kid growing up in the 80’s the speaker box reference reminds of ‘Charlie’ from Charlie’s Angels, so it’s a nice memory of an innocent time long gone.

      The second may be the turning point – there are very few I know solely online I can say are ‘friends’ (in our airport pickup/being invited into their home definition). And those have developed through private emails, calls, etc. not merely based on what’s out there publicly. By the time I reach friendship level with someone I would certainly hope I’m no longer just a speaker.

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