12 Most Offensive Habits on Social Media

12 Most Offensive Habits on Social Media

Some say social media has no set rules, but it’s hardly a place where anything goes. Like cell phone use in public: most of us know we shouldn’t have a mobile device switched on at, say… a funeral (let alone use or answer it). And yet, it still happens.

Here is a very unscientific list of the dozen most obnoxious, cringe-worthy things that happen in the social media realm.

Snarky alert: strap yourselves in — the ride gets pretty bumpy from here…

1. Stealing

Students get kicked out of college for plagiarizing. Journalists get fired for doing it. Heck, even CEOs get bounced for pretending that something is theirs that ain’t. So why, oh why, is copying, lifting, misappropriating and other forms of stealing content rampant on the social web?

Some tips for doing it right: 12 Most Crucial Rules for Content Sharing

2. Curating without credit

This is actually called stealing. And yep, it’s bad. Check out “I’m as Mad as Hell and I’m Not Gonna Take This Anymore!” A Tale of Copyright Infringement by a friend who had this very thing happen last week.

3. “Borrowing”

Yep, this is stealing, too. Whether someone just “borrowed” a headline, a paragraph, an idea or a whole post…if they got the goods somewhere else, they’ve got to credit the brains behind the brilliance, for goodness sakes. Cheaters are so easily caught on the social web: ping backs, Topsy Alerts and other bloggers or followers will alert the person whose creative work was “borrowed.” And the “borrower” will very likely be shamed publicly. Not. Worth. It.

More here: Oops, You Did It Again.

4. One-way communication

No one person or brand is so important that they can truly dispense with following people back. When I see someone with tens of thousands of followers and they follow, say, less than 100 back, I pass. And many others do too. I don’t care how good they are — I don’t want it shoveled at me.

5. Forgetting your manners

“Please,” “thank you” and other forms of appreciation are not just a nice bonus in social media, they are essential to avoid appearing rude. No, it’s not necessary to show gratitude on every tweet. In fact, treacly Twitter feeds, syrupy with happy faces and thank you’s, become hard to take. But when people don’t thank others for sharing their stuff at least somewhat regularly — Lady Gaga or Justin Bieber, excepted — don’t expect the sharing to continue.

6. Ceaseless promotion

We get that people want some mileage for themselves, their company or clients through social media. Most of us do. But that doesn’t justify spewing a stream of mostly promotional tweets. It’s obnoxious. It’s boring. It’s arrogant. And it will cost followers. (The kind who weren’t bought, anyway.)

7. Sarcasm

Social media is generally not the place to be flippant or sarcastic. You risk offending people — especially if the relationship hasn’t also flourished offline. Why be on social media toting a big bag of nasty? Grumpy, mean people can spread that stuff to all of the unfortunate folks who have to deal with them in real life.

8. Spouting off about how easy social media is

Like get-rich schemes and weight-loss tales that involve dropping pounds by eating chocolate cake, people who sell a story about easy, effortless social media campaigns are doing just that: selling a story. Social media authenticity requires engagement. And engagement takes work. Period.

9. Claiming to be a social media guru, rock star or maven

Really, anyone who is calling themselves one of these three things is lying. Run, don’t walk, as far away from them as possible. They are trying to sell the modern equivalent of snake oil. And, likely, they are preaching that it’s easy (see #8). Or, that they need to “do” the social media for you for a large fee.

10. Considering social media a “task”

It’s not a task. It’s a process. It’s a conversation. It’s an outcome. And it’s a tool to use to meet goals for customer engagement and business development. Social media is not some kind of “set it and forget it” chore on a to-do list. It’s sales, business development, investor relations, media relations, donor and volunteer recruitment channels — and many other things. But it takes engagement, awareness, nimbleness and dedication.

11. Not sharing others’ material or posts

Social media karma is real. And it will smack those people who never share upside the head, hard. And they’ll deserve it.

12. Being a know-it-all

Being on the social web is nothing if not humbling. There is so much changing, so quickly, it’s impossible to know it all. Oh, some pretend to. The smart ones know when to admit what they don’t know. Not knowing is not a crime, but faking it is. Pros own up when they need a little tutorial in something social. Others will almost always oblige and help out. That’s the magic of social — as long as we admit when we need a hand.

So, how would I sum up these 12: “Don’t be a jerk!” Where have I missed the mark? What would you add? And how would you sum up the 12 most offensive habits?

Featured image courtesy of pa1nt licensed via Creative Commons.

Becky Gaylord


Becky worked as a reporter for more than 15 years in Washington, D.C.; Sydney, Australia; and Cleveland, Ohio for major publications including the New York Times, Salon.com, Business Week, the Wall Street Journal, and was Associate Editor of the Plain Dealer's Editorial Page before she launched the consulting practice, Gaylord LLC. The company helps clients improve their external relations and communication and increase their influence and impact. Becky blogs about that (a few other things) at Framing What Works.

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