“You’re Creeping Me Out!” The Dark Side of Social Networking

By Kerry Gorgone, {grow} Contributing Columnist

Things are about to get personal.

Social media has made it easier than ever to connect: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and other services have greatly amplified everyone’s personal brand message. This is fun, and beneficial inasmuch as we can get a sense of someone’s professionalism, character, and personality before we ever meet them in person.

Recently, though, I’ve had some less than pleasant experiences with people who seem to be interested in professional networking, but ultimately just wanted to use me to sidle up to someone else I know. Here are some tips from me and some of my social media friends on how to connect with people (as opposed to using them):

Don’t be creepy. If we’ve had a professional phone call, don’t use my number later for personal reasons. Texting me at 10 p.m. to ask “what’s up” is going to make me uncomfortable. My significant other won’t appreciate it, either.

If I accept your friend request on Facebook, don’t message me telling me I forgot to post to your wall for your birthday, as though I should have remembered. My mother didn’t call me on my birthday. Get over it.

Don’t come on too strong. I appreciate when people are helpful, and offer to share my posts or promote my upcoming appearances. This kind of professional support should show that you value my work and share my passions. Unless we’ve met in person, however, please don’t ask for my home address and, say, mail me gifts. That’s a little too personal.

You don’t owe me anything, and sending unsolicited gifts to me or my kids makes me feel as though you want me in your debt for some reason. Maybe this is unfair, but the fact is, it creeps me out, and I’m probably not the only one. Social gifting via Facebook and other networks has started to change public perception. A small token of appreciation given via Facebook is probably fine, since it won’t require that you know my home address or other vital information, but don’t go overboard.

Let things unfold naturally. That’s the only way a genuine, lasting relationship can begin.

Don’t ask for favors immediately. Nothing says “I’m using you” like friending me, then immediately asking how you should go about getting my close friend, Mr. New Media Celeb, to endorse your forthcoming project.  Immediately, I will realize that you only wanted to step over me. That’s not a pleasant feeling, and will actually undermine your ultimate goal of “getting in” with my close friend, who is sure to value my opinion about pitches from “mutual connections.”

Consider how well you know someone before asking for any favors at all. As travel blogger and social media consultant Ann Tran observes, “I’m not automatically your friend when you need your book promoted or reviewed. ”Controlling the influx of pitches is a challenge when you have 300,000 followers on Twitter, as Ann does (@AnnTran_), but she remains open to connecting with people in a genuine way. “Social Media is all about collaborating and cultivating relationships, just like you would in any real-life situation.

Don’t overstate our relationship. Please don’t send my high-profile friend a request to connect, indicating that you and I are good friends. We aren’t. Calvin Lee, designer, Twitter personality (@MayhemStudios), and Klout phenomenon, has more than 80,000 followers on Twitter, and has some experience with people overstepping boundaries. “They try to friend you online and IRL, talking you up like you’re the best friends in the world. They try getting on your good side by commenting, liking, sharing, or retweeting your posts and updates on all your social networks. “They’ll also friend everyone in your circle of friends on your social networks, adding as many as possible, then try to be their best friend. The next thing you know, this person will have snaked and faked their way into your network.”

I agree with Calvin that frantically friending my friends is a no-no. It’s fine to say that you know me, if that’s the case, and ideally to explain how. For instance, “I met Kerry at the NASA Social in D.C. last week and she had some great things to say about you. I’d love to connect, if you’ve a mind to.” This gives an accurate representation of our connection, and my friend can decide whether or not they want to accept your request based on what they know about you, rather than thinking I’m “vouching” for you without having been asked.

An emoticon is just an emoticon. 😉 Don’t assume that someone you know on Twitter wants to take the relationship offline just because he or she engages with you or your posts. Actress Casey McKinnon recommends maintaining appropriate boundaries when connecting with the opposite sex on social networks. “The best way not to be creepy online is to treat every female on the internet like she’s your sister… unless you’re into incest, then you should just stay off the web altogether.” So before you send that friend request or ask for a “shout out,” think about how you’d feel if the tables were turned. If you’d be creeped out or annoyed, chances are I will be too.

Kerry O'Shea Gorgone

Kerry O’Shea Gorgone, JD/MBA, teaches New Media Marketing in the Internet Marketing Master of Science Program at Full Sail University in Winter Park Florida. Follow her on Twitter: KerryGorgone

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  • I’ll be interested to see what kind of a comment stream gets started here. On the one hand, I’m surprised to find I’m the first to be commenting… and on the other, I realize that none of us like to be reminded of our shadows and so we tend to avoid considering them at all, let alone to the point of making comment. What’s your guess – will those who are only opportunistically engaged even follow you enough to read this post?

  • L C

    Social media in general creeps me out, all of it. The fact that it is beginning to have a controlling interest in page ranking and traffic to our websites is frightening indeed. This is a great post that assumes people will wake up and follow the Golden Rule, but it hasn’t worked too well before social media so I don’t think it’s going to work in the marketplace free-for-all now. We are all public figures now, something that only famous people had to deal with in the past. I love what Calvin said… “snaked and faked their way into your network.” Isn’t that what people do in real life, too?

  • Thanks for you reply! May I have your home address so I can mail you a thank-you gift? 😉 In all seriousness, you’re right that social media has broader and broader implications. All of my friends had experiences like mine, but few would share them. Some didn’t want to give “air time” to the users and creeps, while others were afraid of the repercussions should clingy followers recognize themselves in the anecdote. Everyone’s “famous” in their little corner of the online universe.

  • Anneliz Hannan

    This brings to mind the ‘say hi’ on Google+ circles. I find this very creepy. I am fine when someone circles and then follows through by commenting on a post to open the potential conversation but I find so many just commenting with an off-color or generic comment of what’s up. It is an immediate non circle back on my part.

  • Great points! Superficial followers won’t see this, but creepy, overly attached followers will. I can only hope they understand the point, rather than send me a message to express surprise at having been mentioned (albeit anonymously).

  • Sunny

    One thing I noticed about myself was when I started trying some of the blogging and social media methods – I didn’t have anyone to talk about it. I probably broke some of these rules just trying to get answers or find a friend to discuss what was happening. So I didn’t mean to be creepy I was just so curious and I’m naturally vivacious so maybe I did.

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  • KatFrench

    Even in “real world” relationships, people have a hard time grasping boundaries and appropriate, non-creepy progression of relationships. Some people have a hard time not seeing other people as tools, in the “means to an end” sense, not in the “you’re such a tool” sense. I guess my point is, some people need netiquette lessons, and some people are just sociopaths. :-/

    Then again, when you consider the inability to pick up on body language and tonal cues, it’s almost as if social media applies some of the communication issues of autism. So it’s probably no wonder a lot of us seem more socially inept online than in real life. (And it’s probably also why people like me who are naturally socially inept IRL do well online. We have more experience overcoming those issues already). You’ve got some good reminders in this post of “rules of thumb” that can help overcome those obstacles.

    I hope you don’t think it’s creepy for me to say I enjoyed getting to meet you this weekend. 🙂

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  • RogierNoort

    Hey Kerry.., good post. Thanks for writing it up…

    I was just wondering.., how often does this occur?
    I do not have this issue as I’m not “connected” enough (and a dude).
    For you to write this post, I can only assume that it’s a common occurrence. I had no idea “they” would go that far…
    Then again, being surprised about it is a bit naive I suppose.

  • Does this mean I shouldn’t follow you around at SoSlam in my t-shirt that says “Kerry Rocks’ in huge letters? Oh well, I can just go back to stalking Mark 🙂

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  • [warning, I wrote a LONG comment]
    One of the major problems with “Social” is it’s inherent anti-social nature. Connecting virtually is limiting because it removes the subtle cues that most humans need for the proper development of relationships, both professional and personal. Detecting tone is beyond difficult, and the haphazard use of emoticons to express and guide human emotion in the online sphere has made us tip toe on egg shells many times as we second guess if the other person really “lol” or whether that 😉 was just friendly or a red flag.

    We’ve all done it, crossed or blurred a line inadvertently, and if one hasn’t , they will at some point. It’s uncomfortable, like when you say too much to the person at the company party that you’ve never had a real conversation with, but nod at everyday on the way to the kitchen. False sense of familiarity. It happens, it is human nature.

    The worrisome thing is when it crosses the line from overly friendly and chatty, to controlling and demanding. When a virtual connection can make your social networks uncomfortable, or even hostile, places to be because they took advantage of the blurred boundaries that can exist between virtual colleagues. Some things get shared, people develop a false sense of connection or friendship, and then, feelings get hurt, or worse.

    One of the most common things I have experienced, and while it doesn’t sound distressing to some, is the freedom that male connections feel they have with commenting on my looks, or making comments of a definite NSFW manner. It doesn’t complement me to feel like I am at a bar when I am on Twitter, Facebook, G+, etc. Social IS my profession and coming into my office and coming on to me is offensive. Likewise to consider an industry networking event a place to do the same. Becoming offended because I ignore the advance or call it out as inappropriate, is the wrong response. The offending party may think they are the only one doing it, which leads them to believe the offended party is over reacting, except that it happens more times than is comfortable or flattering.

    I have had people whom I don’t really “know” on Twitter blatantly proposition me, send me explicit comments, DM me several hundred messages over a single night because they found out I was starting to date someone new, and they were angry that I wasn’t giving them a chance, even though I didn’t actually “know” them. Proclaiming a false sense of adoration for me, someone they didn’t really know, but because we chat due to our connections through x people or x twitter group, they feel they are in a more intimate circle of trust than they are. I’ve had experiences so unnerving with online connections feeling that they had some sort of “right” over me, that I have felt forced to block people and have even contacted law enforcement. The individual’s presence in online communities I was a member of, made me feel pressured to leave those communities, because requests to stop contacting me were not respected, even when others asked on my behalf.

    The ability to “connect” with people today, in a way we couldn’t just ten years ago, has created a confusing social landscape for some. While Social is a great tool for networking and connecting, AND it can lead to making genuine friendships, the thing to remember is that the majority of people in your Facebook friends list, or your followers on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. are NOT your friends. While we share interesting information with each other, and occasionally we share a laugh or a tear as we watch world events unfold, being friendly does not constitute an invitation into someone’s home or private life and certainly, being warm and engaging does not translate to a request for romantic or other adult in nature advances.

    Respect each other, respect boundaries, and remember… if we wouldn’t invite or be invited to a non work or industry gathering of friends and family, if we wouldn’t receive or send the friends & family holiday cards, versus the business ones, and if we wouldn’t feel comfortable calling them (or having them call us) if we had the flu for a week and no one was around and oh god, can someone please bring me gatorade and pho or I will die… they aren’t our real life friend, just someone we are friendly with online. Treat online connections as such, but also, too err is human, and be gentle on yourself and others when a toe accidentally meanders past the virtual comfort zone, most of the time it is innocent, just watch out for the whole foot stomping over the line without care.

  • I have had this happen to me and you’re right, it creeps you out. I have been in the professional arena for 25 years and it has always been a part of my life. I have actually given clients away to “dudes” because I didn’t want to work them anymore because they creeped me out. When it happens on social media today, it’s even creepier because it feels closer to home. Because I have dealt with this for a long time, I believe I am almost paranoid to connect with some people I should be connecting with because I don’t want to ever come on too strong or cross a line. I know it holds me back. Got any suggestions or rule of thumb other than the brother-sister relationship. The last thing I want to do is be seen as pesty.

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  • Excellent points Kerry! I’ve had a few creepy situations myself and can’t understand why anyone feels the right to overstep the obvious boundaries many of us are creating. I feel very strongly that as a woman we must be clear in our intentions or social media is simply a portal for all kinds of creepy to step through.

  • Katherine Tattersfield

    Very true about interacting with the opposite sex. As a woman, I’ve run into way too many inappropriate conversations with men in the professional world. I’m sure there are plenty of men who have dealt with pushy women, but probably not as many. I’d like to know how many men receive “friend” requests from the opposite sex only to receive sexual advances via private message shortly thereafter.

  • I wonder how much gender influences our reactions to how we are treated online. I would imagine it has a significant influence.

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  • It’s entirely possible, Josh. Many factors no doubt impact our interpretation of other people’s actions.

  • I do think men find themselves on the receiving end of unwelcome advances, too, although anecdotally it doesn’t seem to happen as often! Thanks for your reply.

  • Thanks, Rebekah! Setting and maintaining boundaries is a never-ending task, but well worth the work.

  • Thanks for your reply, Julie. I give people the benefit of the doubt, until I start feeling nervous or uncomfortable. As soon as my instincts tell me something or someone’s off, I listen. As far as outreach, I try to be friendly and pleasant, without being overly familiar.

  • Love this: “Social IS my profession and coming into my office and coming on to me is offensive.” Great points, Michele. Thanks so much for sharing your experience! Your suggestions for gauging the difference between connections with whom we’re “friendly” and actual friends are practical and easy to apply. Thanks for replying!

  • Hi Rogier,
    It’s happened to me a number of times, and I was also naive in thinking it could not occur at first. Unfortunately, there are people who will disregard boundaries and take liberties with DMs and the like, although more often I’ve encountered people who inadvertently say something overly familiar. Thanks for your reply!

  • Not creepy at all, Kat! So great meeting you, too. And what a great point about autism! To be sure, missing certain social cues can lead to seemingly inappropriate behavior, online and off.

  • Thanks for your reply, Sunny. Thinking before reaching out is always worthwhile. What you’re asking for may be perfectly acceptable, or it might be overly burdensome or socially inappropriate. In part, it depends on the person you’re contacting, and where their personal boundaries lie, which makes it difficult. Erring on the side of offering help as opposed to asking for it will often make a positive difference.

  • I agree Anneliz: it’s disconcerting to have a complete stranger start an online chat without any context. Thanks for your comment!

  • Seems like a shame to waste the t-shirt, though. Hahaha!

  • Yes I receive unwanted advances. My personal policy is that when something like this happens I show it to my wife right away because I do not even want an image of impropriety to mar our relationship. As somebody who is massively in public this kind of thing will happen so I think you just need to deal with it in a very upfront and honest way. You can’t change other people. Your only power is in how you handle it.

  • Michele, first let me thank you for an incredibly thoughtful and powerful comment. This is a legitimate blog post in its own right.

    Your comment makes me incredibly sad. I see this aggressive sexual behavior all the time and I am really sickened by it. SXSW, which I attended last week, was filled with this sexual taunting but it is everywhere. And here is what I think when I see it: “If somebody were hitting on your mother or your sister or you wife this way you would probably punch them in the face.”

    Today I passed a very attractive woman in my hotel. I normally smile and say hello to everyone I see. But this woman noticably looked down and away when I passed and would not make eye contact. At first I thought that was strange but then I thought that this poor woman has probably been conditioned to know that even a friendly hello is going to invite unwelcome advances by a predator.

    I can’t explain it. I cant apologize for others. All I can say is that I empathasize and it makes me so very, very sad to read your comment and the comments of others in this post.

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  • Mark, you are a perfect gentleman, always, and I can’t tell you how much I appreciate that!

  • Great comment, which reminds me of a discussion I had with someone else the other day. As a woman, you have to be careful not to overstep boundaries with a smile or a too-friendly attitude. Double standards are bigger than ever with social media!

  • Excellent post, Kerry!

    I always say that social media has given people a good excuse to act like robots. They feel protected behind their computer screens or device, so they think no one will see them for who they are.

    Maybe one day people will wake up and realize that social media is the same as real life, except that you don’t see faces directly.

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  • Thank you Mark for creating such a great space in which we can all learn and have such openly important conversations. Thanks Kerry for a great article. I think all to often we are all reading about the glitz and glamor of social media, and only all the positive things, and no one is really taking the time to discuss other really important topics such as this one. Basically the darker side of human nature. As men I think we have a responsibility to be professional and to act like gentleman. With that said I can only gravitate to Michele J Martin’s comment. I feel a little sad as well, not so much about the comment itself, it’s just that I too have experienced what Mark has said about some woman just not even wanting to make eye contact because they have had to deal with this issue so much. It is comforting to know that we all have the power to cultivate the real relationships we do have, and to establish that trust and those boundaries because they are priceless. Just remember guy’s it can take 20 years to build a solid reputation , and only about 20 minutes to lose it, so watch your pees and Q’s.

  • When men received unsolicited connection requests from attractive women on Twitter or Facebook, they are soon followed by links to unsavory websites or requests for bank account numbers.

  • Thank you so much for your response to my comment. I wasn’t sure whether I should post it, as I typed away. In the end however, I felt it needed to be said.

    If you take guest contributors, I’d be happy to write a piece on ethics and social media behaviors. Let me know.

  • The amusing thing is that I was the woman who always denied that double standards existed… I never experienced them, at least not in such an obvious and palpable manner. When I was younger, I was a little heavier, a little more “average” looking. I aged well, I took care of myself and the more attractive I became, the more obvious and in my face it became. I have had married colleagues proposition me, potential bosses, potential partners, and even potential clients. It’s to the point that I have begun to avoid all networking or industry events, which effects my ability to bring in business. How do I beat “them” when they are running the games?

  • Kerry,

    Thank YOU. I appreciate the call out. It was a difficult decision to post the comment with such honesty. I was afraid of backlash, to be honest. I appreciate all of the support.

  • The more active I am on line, the more engaging, the more it happens. I average about one virtual “creep” a month and one locally based – SoMe connected one every 6-8 weeks. I had 9 unnerving experiences last year… of those, 5 were explicit in nature, and the others eluded to a potential for…

    I was surprised and angry. SO, don’t feel badly for being naive about it. Until it’s experienced firsthand (or by a friend of yours), you can’t imagine that it exists.

  • Thanks for this. I’m a New Yorker by birth, so I still look people in the eye. I still smile, I still shake with 2 hands. I’m an ENFP, I like people… I’m curious and engaged… but I second guess what I wear every time I meet a client, go to a business event, network, etc. Is my hair too sexy? Do my shoes send the wrong message? Too much makeup? Not enough? What does this parfum “say” about me? This jewelry?

    If I don’t smile, don’t shake hands, don’t look people in the eye, then I am cold or rude. How can I talk engagement, if I can’t engage?

  • The difference is that often men are flattered by it, even if it is unwelcomed. It doesn’t often undermine their intelligence or value in the way that it can for us. When someone looks at me and only sees me as a possible conquest, rather than seeing the value I can bring to a project with my crazy out of the box thinking and ideation skills, it devalues me, rather than compliments me. I’m not insecure. I know I am a beautiful woman. Having grown up as the awkward overweight kid, I’m aware of what is looking back in the mirror now. The only person that should be commenting on sexual attractiveness is the man I am dating. There is no gray area there.

  • I had this one particular person on G+ try to start a chat everyday for 2 months. At what point does he *not* get the point? If I haven’t said hello back by… say, the 2nd “Hi”.. don’t message me again!

  • I would welcome your submission Michele. Thanks for the offer. You can email me through this site.

  • Damn. That’s crazy. Nine in one year? That is awful.

  • I guess I am really aware of it because I am an immigrant. So, I am used to reading between the lines.

    I always make things very clear from the start, which has helped me build valuable relationships with men without fearing being hit on.

  • RogierNoort

    Hey Michele.., thanks for the reply. Read you big reply too.., I.., well.., I’m at a loss for words.., that does not happen often.
    I reckon I’d be amazingly uncomfortable if a woman (or a dude for that matter) would ‘hit’ on me like that. First thing I’d do is call or email my wife to ask what to do with, or about it.

    I’m sorry you, and Kerry and others, have to deal with this…

  • RogierNoort

    It’s astounding how far they push it. Michele’s comment adds that extra perspective… It’s just… pffft…

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  • Great point, Cendrine! People should also realize that you may well see people in person at some point, at conferences or other industry events. How that first meeting goes will depend in large part on the way you’ve interacted online.

  • A lot goes into making the right impression, that’s for sure! I had to cut myself some slack at SXSW, because I’d go out all day to sessions, then go straight to evening events. I was not looking my best by 6:00 p.m., but then many other people were also in the same boat. I think so long as you “fit” the dress level of the group you’re joining, everything will work out fine.

  • Thanks, Tom! One thing I love about writing for {grow} is being part of this community. Great comment!

  • EEP.

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  • How much clearer can you be than when you’ve found ways to politely mention your male partner in a conversation, or that you don’t date people in the industry? Why do I even need to preface a ny meeting with a “I’m not your 38 year old affair waiting to happen”?

  • Thank you, let me know i you have any specific guidelines that you prefer to stay within. You can email me at michele at michelejmartin dot com

  • no no, my point is that I have begun to second guess that everything I do sends the wrong messsage. I’m 38… I went to a networking/ industry event at a bar in winter wearing knee high boots, jeans, a j crew long sleeve argyle cashmere sweater with a simple neckline (no plunge or v-neck), basic diamond stud earrings, and light makeup. I was hit on that night by some and told later by someone whom I “thought was different” and was looking to form a business partnership with, that he only talked to me because of my boots and that sweater… and he proceeded to come on to me… weeks later. Meanwhile I had told him about my previous issues with this happening and how it offended me. Yet, he did it to. How was that outfit sexy? It was a sweater and jeans. Fitted, but not over the top tight. I wasn’t flaunting anything.

    I’ve been told by one man that my wearing black is sending a sexy vibe. Really?! In NYC, it’s called versatile, slimming, dirt hiding, and practical. I’m a stylish slim woman who is almost 40. I look ten years younger and get treated like I am only at the event to provide eye candy and ego boosts to the men who are bored looking at each other, rather than as a contributing member of the community.

  • Yeah, it has become a sad joke with one of my friends. It’s as if I am a magnet for it.

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  • Living in a male-dominated universe comes with irritating challenges, unfortunately. I usually give the benefit of the doubt to the person once, then if they persist, I just block them.

    The other day, in one of my workshops, we discussed the reason why there is a controversy over Melissa Meyer’s banning work from home. I explained that there would never be any controversy in the first place, if the CEO was a man. Of course, some people (especially men) didn’t like it. But, to be honest, I don’t care. You don’t change the status quo if you remain silent about something.

    No matter what they do, women are criticized. If they dare be different, they are labeled all sorts of bad names. If they follow the lead, they are also disparaged.

    Mentioning your male partner is not enough. I have friends who are lesbians and even when they state that they are in happy relationships, men make comments like: “You just need to meet the right man.” or “Wait until you meet me.”

    At the end of the day, it’s about continuing this conversation and making it a public issue.

  • It’s not about the clothes, IMO. It’s about the aggressive person’s poor boundaries.

    At SXSW, I was working at a party for my employer, checking people in at the door. Because it was SXSW, because it was a “Wild West” themed bar, and frankly, because I liked it, I wore a steampunk corset. It would be totally fair to say it was a provocative outfit. Indecent? No. But definitely not “blend in with the woodwork black and grey.”

    And it still wouldn’t have been appropriate for someone to hit on me while I was obviously working. Maybe I’m lucky, because nobody did (that I noticed). Maybe it was just that I was SO busy nobody could get a moment of my attention. Or maybe someone did hit on me and I was too distracted to notice (I’m notoriously bad at social cues IRL).

    I guess my point is, it makes me sad that you feel like you have to overthink and second guess so much. Because disrespectful behavior is on the person who is acting disrespectfully. Whatever your attire (or online, whatever your avatar)–you have the right to feel safe and respected.

  • I disagree that banning employees from working at home is an issue because the CEO is a woman. That would be a dramatic cultural shift and headline news no matter who was in charge.

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  • I found this post via a share from Calvin Lee & you’ve performed an great service here. I suspect many feel that social media = instant relationship when in reality the various platforms merely expose us to people & ideas that we might not otherwise encounter. Real relationships still take trust & develop over time, you can’t just add hot water, stir & serve. No one is owed engagement or connection, these are privileges that must be mutually agreed upon & to a large extent earned.

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  • Hi Kerry, I’ve been really struggling about how to respond to your fantastic post and the very skewed responses it received. Firstly, the post was right on target. People need to learn how to engage online. The instant gratification Social Media provides from an initial contact/engagement perspective sometimes confuses people into believing this notion carries through the entire relationship. That’s simply not the case. Individuals and businesses are equally misunderstanding this point and if they truly want to succeed, need to understand the game.

    As far as the more specific comments here to the topic of male/female response, this truly doesn’t surprise me as there are many who are that way IRL as well. Social just amplifies this unfortunately and makes it easier because of the impersonal nature of the technology. As a guy, I’m disappointed to hear you go through this but please know that I would expect you to just shut them down and turn them off as soon as it starts.

    But, in reality, these are two entirely different topics and need to have separate discussions. I would love to see a blog post about this so it can be discussed in more depth. There is a lot to be said about this and learned from it; from both (male and female) perspectives. Because unfortunately, unless it is addressed, it’s going to get worse!

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  • Katherine Tattersfield

    LMAO Well played.

  • Thanks so much for your reply! Certainly, the experience is different for men versus women, and there’s ample fodder for discussion on either side of the fence.

  • Thanks, Jean! I agree: anyone who’s genuine in wanting to establish a relationship will be willing to go through the paces. Certain things (like trust, friendship, and respect) take time to develop.

  • Agreed on all counts. 1) Awesome top, Kat! 2) Disrespecting people is never okay. 3) No one should not have to guess, second guess, third guess and revisit their wardrobe decisions to avoid being hit on.

    The thing is, whatever you wear, if someone’s bent on being inappropriate, they’re going to be inappropriate. That behavior’s about them, not us. Life would certainly be easier if there were a set of rules we could live by that would dictate how others interacted with us, but we’re only in control of ourselves.

    Having seen your outfit, Kat, it was playful and appropriate to the venue and occasion. Having read Michele’s thoughtful and articulate comments, I feel sure her attire was professional in every respect. The bottom line seems to be that, online or IRL, there are some people who disregard the boundaries we set, and it’s our job to reinforce them at every turn.

    I do hope this article will help to make some people aware that what they were doing might cross a line. If they at least consider how their actions make others feel, I’ll consider that progress!

    Thanks so much for commenting!

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  • Anita Nelson

    The gifts are the weirdest. Great post!

  • Thanks, Anita!

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  • Kris Bradley

    Great reply. I love how you describe respecting boundaries and the difference between being friendly online and actually being real life friends. You and Kerry both hit the nail on the head. Unfortunately as social media matures so does the ugly dark side.

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  • Oh, I agree! Unwanted/unsolicited advances is the main thing that will completely creep me out! Aren’t they aware that there are “dating” sites out there? I’m also very uncomfortable having to get pushed to the point of being rude to them because I do want to maintain a “positive” online presence but I’ve certainly had to do so. I friended a “friend of a friend” on FB who was supposedly interested in design work from me. When he started sending me private messages asking me if I had a webcam or would Skype with him (very late at night!) I asked him politely to stop. He apologized profusely…and tried to explain that “in his country/culture” that he was not doing anything wrong and how people in the USA just took things differently. He did the same thing at least twice afterwards. I had to finally tell him not to contact me again at all and informed him how others would interpret it as well. I did not have to “unfriend” him as he did get the message and now only comments or likes in a much more positive way. I’ve had similar things happen on both Twitter and LinkedIn…ugh. Great article! Thanks for posting!

  • You’re more patient than I am, Robin! I block after the second inappropriate contact (if not the first). I see how it’s more difficult when you need to maintain a positive professional relationship with someone who keeps pushing the boundaries, though.

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