A Prayer for Passive Aggressive Resistance
Often online, and especially in the social media marketing biz, people resort to what we like to call “passive-aggressiveness,” which I will oversimplify by defining it as crabbing about something without naming names.
The second most-popular sport in social media, I suspect, is calling people cowards for being passive aggressive.
On the one hand, I have no problem with people calling others out directly, if they are willing to start a dialogue in which opposing viewpoints are debated rationally.
HA! Had you there. When is that going to happen?
I do believe that if we see things that we think are wrong, that we have a duty to correct them and offer a better way. I also agree with those that say slinging mud at each other is counterproductive. So what to do?
Passive-aggressiveness is the answer. But why? I have thought about it a bit, and here is my defense for you
cowards people who want to tell it like it is:
- There is no need to gratuitously call people out: The problem with naming names is that you could appear to condemn all that person does. Of course, a person is a sum of their being, and a professional is a sum of their professional acts, so that’s not fair. That said, if I think a friend can take a ribbing, I’ll jape with them directly, but humorously and always acknowledging the answer, whether I agree or not. We can make our points without having to attack people. ETA: Some people out there are thin-skinned, and perceive any criticism as an attack, or simply get defensive as a kneejerk reaction. Naming such people derails the conversation before it has begun. I’d rather discuss the issue rather than the people.
- Universal application of concepts: Often, something we want to call out is practiced by many, so calling out one person, again, is unfair. People piled on Guy Kawasaki for continuing auto-tweets during the Boston Marathon bombing crisis, but he wasn’t the only one. Why single him out when there are plenty of targets? Plus, he responded like a baby so it wasn’t worth it and the point was lost (oops I’m breaking my rule).
- Creative License: By this, I mean that there are different varieties of many bad practices. If you are too narrow in your focus, you may miss addressing a larger cure for a larger problem. What one person may be doing wrong is interesting, the bigger issue behind it all, and the solution, is afar more interesting.
- Parody vs Personal Attacks: It’s much more fun to be funny. If you name names, you may tie yourself to the facts, and that’s certainly no fun. Passive-aggressive behavior gives you license to exaggerate, to be outrageous without cutting people down. You can be nasty and nice at the same time, and everybody wins.
Those are my thoughts on the matter. Feel free to attack me publicly and say I’m wrong (or use one of my handy rules above to attack me passive-aggressively).
Yeah, so I’m not going to name names here. We’re all probably doing something wrong anyway. Knock yourself out.
*Note: if you ever write a passive-aggressive social media blog post, let me know privately whom you are really complaining about. I love gossip.