There are numerous ways to show yourself technologically aware if not downright savvy. Many companies and organizations are pushing into social media to promote their products and/or ideas. They want to appear hip and now. At the end of the day, of course, it is a marketing game. The end goal is to influence you.
Some people clash online too. It is inevitable. Seth Godin once wrote that the best way to win an online argument is to not have one. Sound advice off-line too, if you ask me. However, clashes will occur. One side will try to influence others to their point of view, while the other side does the same.
Let’s assume that whether it be marketing or just trying to influence someone to a particular point of view, you have to agree that there are good ways to go about it. You may not win over the majority, but at least it will be out there, and the effort will be viewed as honorable, decent and even those who disagree will be more likely to show respect.
Then, there is the flip side. You can anger everyone around you and even turn off people who might at least be otherwise sympathetic.
Let me state that in spite of the fact that technology is involved, this really is not a technology issue. Technology is just the tool. In the same way that you don’t need to know how to measure the speed of the engine in the car you are driving in order to drive correctly, you don’t need to know much about bits, bytes and protocols in order to use some common sense when it comes to an attempt to influence others.
Let me just interject here as well that distributing material of a religious nature, about a religious organization or “doing God’s work” is no excuse for doing what may be perceived as underhanded, sneaky or downright wrong. If you or someone you know is involved in one of these tactics, then it is time to reconsider the type of example you are showing “the world”.
And yes, I have seen these tactics being used recently involving religious matters, believe it or not.
1. Spam. You would think people would get the hint by now. Spam does not work unless you just like setting up new email accounts every few days because your ISP pulls the plug on you.
Even just sending someone unsolicited emails is not likely to endear someone to your cause or product. I really like the ones that start off by saying, “This is not spam. You will only receive this one time.” Guess what? I don’t care! I don’t want the first one! In fact, all else being equal, I’m twice as likely to choose any other option now.
One misconception I have heard at times is that “it is not spam because it is not commercial. I’m not selling anything.” That does not matter. While unsolicited commercial email (UCE) is the most well-known and hated form of spam, it is just a subset. Anything repeatedly sent and is unsolicited is spam. Charities and individuals are not exempt from this.
2. Sock puppets. You know, creating a fake identity to hide behind is one way to just have people dismiss you as irrelevant (at best), a pest or deceitful (worst). People used to do this quite a bit on Usenet news groups, but now there seems to be some of that going on on the social networks as well. It seems that sooner or later the person is outed.
Some people reason that doing this is better than “Anonymous” types of messages. However, using a fake identity could really backfire if people feel deceived.
While there may be legitimate reasons to hide one’s identity, it is a double-edged sword. People could be inclined to believe that the reason you are hiding is because what you are saying or doing is not legitimate.
3. Use ad hominems. For some reason, when some people get behind a computer screen, it seems that they are less likely to engage in critical thinking techniques. The lack of face-to-face seems to make it more likely for them to attack another person, their reputation, their work or something else of a personal nature. It has been my experience that the person is attacked when there are no facts left to attack their position. It is more than a distraction from the real issue, though. It is another human being on the other end that is receiving those attacks. Personally, if the attack seems unwarranted, then I’m much more likely to develop sympathy for the one being attacked. Calling people “unethical” or “immoral” without proof is going to make me discount your position.
4. Just plain being unforgiving, unyielding and/or unreasonable towards “the other side” of a debate/issue. I realize that some things are “core” to a given set of beliefs, but many times what I actually see are arguments over side issues. In many cases, it is making mountains out of molehills. In some cases, though, it is very hard to acknowledge any legitimacy of the other side when you are busy calling them “unethical”, “unrighteous” or “immoral”. When decisions that were made 3 or 4 years ago keep bubbling up over and over again, you begin to wonder if it isn’t more of a case of “bad blood” and bitterness than a reasonable objection to events.
I’m sure I could go on, but these have been some of the most egregious errors I have seen recently. Most of these would seem like common sense, but it appears that it is true that “common sense ain’t common” (Will Rogers).