A posted comment that somebody intended to be a joke perhaps creates a strong reaction from the people included in the message.
Or, the other way around, a strong comment is taken as sarcastic and the intended message is lost in a barrage of hilarious follow-ups.
Suddenly, Facebook tells you that you can no longer send invites because someone reported you as sending spam.
A posted picture of yours is copied, altered and used on/for a group whose intentions do not align with your beliefs, social circles, personality or field of work; with very dire consequences to your reputation, net worth, or emotions.
The main difference between the real life and our virtual one is that on the Web, everything stays.
While a face to face conversation might be remembered for its substance, the exact spoken words can be forgotten easily. That is not true on the Social Media systems: every single word and picture is there for others to grab and reread as often as they wish. And then, we all can copy such data and use as we want. If it is there, it belongs in the public domain, doesn’t it?
So, when we notice that our number of contacts has suddenly decreased with no apparent reason, or a lot of comments of a negative nature follow something that we said, or we get warnings of any kind from the group or network administrators; then we realize something is not working well. Most of the times it will be our fault, sometimes it won’t.
In those cases when the network breaks, we are left with the feeling that we have lost something, not really knowing what and not knowing what to do about it, also pondering how it happened. We also start to wonder whether that could happen again, and if it does, how bad it will be the next time.
So, what to do? Well, keep calm and make an effort to correct the mishap: try to write better, it is very easy to make mistakes when your writing is not good, or when you write in more than one language and therefore mistakes happen more often than with single language people, or even when your writing is close to perfect in any language! We are only humans after all.
Do not react trying to immediately correct whatever is in your power to change. Take a step back and stay away for a while. Give yourself time to assess the situation. Most of the times we find out that it is not as bad as originally perceived.
The virtual networks break the same way real ones do. But as quickly as it occurs, sometimes the fix is also expeditious. The trick is to be aware that it does happen, and then act accordingly.
+ Was it the network itself?
-> Relax. Everybody should know then.
+ Was it the technology used to access the network?
-> Be wary of that for next time. Note it.
+ Was it your fault?
-> (Take a deep breath, first and foremost.) Correct the issue: clarify, explain, apologize, do anything you think is appropriate, but just don’t stay there. Any and all action needed to fix the matter has to be executed.
Obviously, some social networks carry a heavier toll than others. In some of them a mistake can be more easily corrected than in others… It also depends on the type of network you are using, it is not very likely that anybody will be offended by you changing your CV or qualifications in LinkedIn or Xing; while a joke posted in Facebook or Twitter might not be funny at all for some people.
Be aware of your surroundings too: imagine that instead of having a face to face conversation with a few friends at a café, you are at a kids’ party where lots of people of different backgrounds and walks of life surround you. Not the same type of comments, right? Private chats and messages are there for a reason. Do not worry about limits: your inbox can hold hundreds of thousands of messages.
So, things break. And we break some things sometimes, but being more careful will always help. Just realize way more eyes can be put on what you post –permanently- than the ears that catch what you say out loud –forgettable-.