No Jerks

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Awhile ago, I had a tweet launch straight out of my computer and blow up right in my face.

It was an early morning – I was groggy. Waking up, I reached for my phone to see someone had posted something I wanted to read from the Guardian. I clicked through – and there was an ad blocking half my screen.

And there was no way to close it.

Frustrated, I took a screenshot, then took to Twitter to voice my displeasure, calling out the company for a terrible user experience.

It was a reflex. A part of me was envisioning myself as some sort of hero, out to save the digital marketing world and show everyone I knew a thing or two about ads. Namely, that you should be able to close them.

Stupid. There was literally nothing to gain from doing so. But hindsight is 20/20.

And so, the problems began.

Long story short? It turns out that ad campaign was managed by some friends of mine, and I had just made life difficult for them. They got an early-morning phone call from the client and had some explaining to do.

That’s when I got an early-morning phone call from my friends, asking what the hell my problem was.

And that felt terrible.

I messed up. Royally. And it all came down to the fact that I had too little discretion about how I was interacting with the world.

Where I thought I’d earn attention and applause for a sarcastic commentary, I got what I deserved: Smacked.

I did what I could to make amends. Apologized. First on the phone, then in person. Bought everyone who had to handle cleaning up my idiotic mess a beer. But even though we all smiled and shook hands, it didn’t feel good.

It still doesn’t.

That was just one of a few times I’d caught myself being a bit of a… well, a douchenozzle.

So I wrote out a little guideline for myself, scrawled on a bent over piece of paper torn out of one of my seemingly hundreds of notebooks:

“If it is mean-spirited, unnecessarily critical, personal, rude, obnoxious, irrelevant, unhelpful or immature, don’t post it. Period.”

And while I don’t always manage to stick to this (and bend the rules sometimes depending on the circumstances – we all need some immaturity now and then, and sometimes there’s cause to be a bit underhanded), I do try to apply it.

I even had to remind myself of it today after reading a big, long humblebrag of a post and taking to Twitter to decry it.

“Who cares, dude? That won’t endear you to anybody. You’re being a jerk.”

So this whole thing boils down to a simple “No Jerks”.

As I get older and more experienced, one of the things I’ve had to keep reminding myself of is that nobody likes the guy who builds his empire on someone else’s back. Nobody likes having their flaws announced or their mistakes called out to everyone in hearing range.

And you never know what ties you’re severing or possible futures you’re slamming the door on because you just HAD to open your big, fat mouth.

You can be ambitious, you can be clever, you can offer constructive criticism. But when you start making personal attacks or taking joy in tearing something down, it’s time to check yourself.

I’m learning to view my Twitter and social accounts like a stage, with an audience of thousands sitting in front of it. Whatever I spew out there is attributed straight back to my character – and that’s a sobering reminder before tweeting out that I hate someone’s landing page or announce that I’m on to my 3rd beer for the evening.

That’s not who I am. Why would I want to portray myself as otherwise?

I think there’s lots of merit in the idea of stepping away, taking a breather, eating a snack (make sure you’re not just hangry) and moving on with your life.

It’s easy to be critical. It’s tough to either be helpful, or keep your yap shut.

Somethin’ to keep in mind.

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