Each of us must rededicate ourselves to serving the common good. We are a community. Our individual fates are linked; our futures intertwined; and if we act in that knowledge and in that spirit together, We can move mountains.”
My first website went up live in 1995 and over the years, I’ve observed a tremendous amount of online fraud, crime, and misrepresentations take place in many of the communities I’ve in. It’s never been easier for the digital foxes to get inside the digital henhouses. That’s not OK.
Over the past two years on social media I’ve watched more than one dishonest business person use his or her “fame” or “influence” to mislead others and take thousands of dollars from other people.
Over the past two years I’ve observed the harm caused by a social media influencer (who at the time also happened to be a convicted registered sex offender with 300k+ followers on Twitter) and and his online “friends” by initiating and encouraging a misguided social media feeding frenzy resulting in false defamatory statements being made and harming the reputations of good hardworking people.
Over the past two years on social media, I’ve observed multiple people, including a well know Snapchat user, arrested for alleged crimes involving child pornography.
Over the past two years on social media, I’ve watched people steal other people’s ideas, clients, trade secret list, and even entire websites from hard working online business owners.
And over the past two years on social media, I’ve watched and read about careless people causing harm and death to others because they tried to live stream or update their social media status while driving.
Both of my kids have been hit from behind by distracted drivers. My daughter had her car totaled and my son had major damage to his car. Both were injured but are doing better today.
Looking back on all of these situations, it’s obvious to me that the careless and often times intentional misconduct conduct of these wrongdoers is inexcusable and pathetic.
But too often, too many people are unaware of the facts and some who are would rather look the other way than risk their reputation and do something about it.
That’s not OK.
Because there is no place in my life for people like this, I’ve already unfollowed, blocked, and stopped supporting what these people are doing. I’ve advised my clients to do the same. After you read this post, I hope you do too.
Online Community Neighborhood Watch
Nobody is perfect. We all make mistakes. I know I do. Maybe you do too.
But there’s a big difference between people who work hard, do their best and sometimes fall short and make a mistake and others, who intentionally try to harm and deceive other people. This is especially true when crimes are committed.
Some friends of mine have taken the position that we should live and let live when it comes to our social media communities. They tell me not to get involved. Just look the other way and forget about it.
I understand what they’re saying and normally this is my approach when it comes to the “little” things in life. I’ve got more than enough on my plate to keep me busy for many years to come.
Having said that, I think it’s important to appreciate who really benefits, and who is harmed, when there are no consequences and wrongdoers are not held accountable.
In the offline community we’ve lived in since 1991, we have a neighborhood watch. Our neighbors and friends all look out for each for each other and the system works pretty well.
Just two weeks ago I posted some pictures on Facebook of all of us hanging out in front of our homes during a Friday evening neighborhood block party. What I didn’t mention is that later that night one of our kids noticed a teenager from a party down the street try to steal a skateboard, speaker, and several other items from our neighbor’s open garage.
As luck would have it, he picked the home of two good friends who happen to be an FBI agent and local Fire Captain. Needless to say, this idiot didn’t make it far before being detained and arrested. We tried to cut him some slack, but he turned out to be under the influence, extremely aggressive and disrespectful and as a result, ended up spending the weekend in juvenile hall.
In the community that I live in, when we see somebody doing something wrong, we take action. We do what needs to be done to right the wrong and fix the harm. We look out for each other. It’s not complicated.
Why should this be any different with our online communities?
In today’s world, it seems as though I interact and engage with more people online each week than in my offline community. Maybe it’s the same for you. For the very same reasons I mentioned above, why in the world wouldn’t we want to protect our digital neighbors from others who may cause them harm, financial losses and even death?
Over the years, the most successful communities I’ve been involved with both personally and in business, are those communities that focused on doing the right thing. Online or offline, they are the communities that do their due diligence when it came to membership, message, and philosophy. They are the communities that focus on doing the right thing and constant and never ending improvement.
I think that when it comes to our online communities, the strength of each community comes from the honesty and transparency of the participants like you and me. Strength and goodness come from people always trying to do what they can to share value, promote right over wrong, and exchange equal opportunities with the other. Holding each other accountable, in an honest and respectful way, has always been a supporting cornerstone.
What I’ve Sometimes Observed In My Online Communities (and this really bothers me)
Probably because of what I do for a living (I’m a trial lawyer), I’ve had dozens of victims during the past year (some because of the above individuals) reach out to me for advice and help. In almost every case I wasn’t the first option, I was the last.
You see, before calling me, some of these victims looked for help by trying to reach out to our community with their honest and good faith concerns. Instead of help, several of these victims were met with doubt, disrespect and often found themselves the new focus of misguided finger pointing and attention. They were the “bad guys” for pointing out the wrongful and sometimes dangerous conduct of others.
Because of the very vocal nature of a few, this is a growing problem. Some in our online community neighborhoods seem to enjoy fanning the flames and promoting a hateful crowd mentality fueled by misinformation and incomplete context. Again, this is the exception and not the norm but from the number of incoming calls to my firm, I see the problem getting worse and not better. That’s one reason I’m writing this post.
At the same time, there are many people in the community who try very hard to do the right thing and protect others from misguided and bad individuals. I thank you for doing so.
Others, despite their desire to help, simply don’t step up. I think factors regarding their reputation being harmed, losing out on business, or being worried about finding themselves on the bottom of the speaking list for an upcoming event come into play.
I get why people do what they do. I’ve been neck deep in the people game for three decades. I completely understand the issues. Why rock the boat right?
After all, the internet and especially social media make it extremely easy for someone interested in getting even with you for exposing their wrongful or illegal conduct. All they need to do is share only part of the story in a way that lacks accurate context. Because of this, there’s the potential of self-serving lies and deceptions being twisted and shared by a digital mob without any regard to accuracy, truthfulness, and long-term effect. The end result is a thought process to simply make a mental note of who the bad guy is, ignore the issue, and move on without saying or doing anything.
But here’s the deal- I don’t think that’s OK. It’s not in my DNA to sit on the sideline and watch other people be bullied into not doing the right thing. I don’t think it’s OK for people to lie and mislead others. I don’t think it’s OK for the digital foxes to run unchecked in the digital henhouses.
I get that doing the right thing and protecting our digital community is not always easy, but it is ALWAYS necessary. Knowing about a serious problem or risk and not doing anything exposes everyone to harm. Especially those who don’t have the ability or means to protect themselves. It reflects an “it’s all about me” attitude instead of a much more valuable “it’s all about we” attitude.
As a lawyer, I’ve always done my due diligence when it comes to representing clients and researching facts, opposing counsel, experts, and judges. One reason I agreed to consult on Chapter 54 (Electronic and Social Media Evidence) of the popular California practice book titled, “Effective Introduction of Evidence in California (2nd Edition) by the Continuing Education of the Bar, is because I see these problems on social media getting worse at an exponential rate.
People don’t think you can hold them accountable because of what they do on social or, they know it’s difficult for you to do so. For this reason, I wanted to try and empower other lawyers with the knowledge, ability, and approaches to use social media, and related digital evidence, to hold wrongdoers accountable for the harm they cause to others.
C.S. Lewis once wrote, “Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.” Today on social media, everyone is watching and because of that, isn’t it more important than ever to do the right thing in these public forums? If I’m missing something here, please let me know.
Look, allowing others to be harmed by someone when you have the power to do something is not, in my opinion, doing the right thing. That’s not the way we roll in the neighborhood where I live, and it’s certainly not the way any of us should handle uncomfortable and potentially dangerous situations in our online digital neighborhood communities.
Doing the right thing is simple. The problem is that many people make doing the right thing as difficult, complicated and hard as possible. They make up some self-serving excuse to look the other way, bury their head in the digital sand, and not take action.
For those of you who participate in a social media community with me and who know the difference between right and wrong, then I’m glad we are connected and I’ll always have your back. For those of you who are uncomfortable with speaking out, please read this post again. I think this message shares an important and much needed element to the long-term success of our digital platforms.
Please support those who have the courage and strength to stand up and try to make a difference by doing the right thing. Together, we can all make our communities safer and better.
To those of you who are misleading others and taking advantage of our community members, then you need to know that it’s personal, and we have a problem. We know who you are.
I don’t have all the answers to holding wrongdoers accountable, but one thing is clear to me. Being in a community means having each other’s back. It’s not about looking the other way when bad actors do bad things.
I’ve lived a long life. In business and law, I’ve seen it all. Nothing surprises me anymore.
Having said that, the ease some people have in looking the other way when someone else does something wrong online, is a new approach to life and business I’ve never actually experienced before. Frankly, it’s a new dynamic I’ll never buy into.
Wrongdoers need to be held accountable. I hope after reading this post, looking the other way and doing nothing is not going to be an option for you either.
Let’s treat our online communities like the offline neighborhoods we live in and do what we all can to help and protect each other. When there’s a problem, I encourage you to be brave, strong, and stand tall. Be loud, help, and don’t simply look the other way.
I thank you for taking the time to read my post. I hope it empowers you to do the right thing and lead by example. If you like my message, please share with others in our community who could use a little encouragement.
For those of you (and you know who you are) who are already walking the talk of responsibility, accountability, and truthfulness, thank you for being part of my digital life.
When all said and done, I think Mark Twain said it best… “Do the right thing. It will gratify some people and astonish the rest.”
Mitch Jackson is an award winning California Trial Lawyer and in 2013 was named one of California’s Litigation Lawyers of the Year (CLAY Award). In 2009 he was also recognized as one of Orange County’s Trial Lawyers of the Year (OCTLA). When he’s not in court trying cases, Mitch enjoys showing professionals, business owners and entrepreneurs how to use social media and live streaming to disrupt, hack and improve their professional relationships, businesses and practices. You can connect with Mitch on social media via Mitch.Social