Two Things To Learn From The Cisco Fatty

If you haven’t heard of the Cisco Fatty yet, you’ve either been living in a cave or you’ve started the 12-step Save Me From Twitter program. Good for you… stay strong.

The Cisco Fatty is the story of grad student Connor Riley(@theconnor) who Tweeted the following:

“Cisco just offered me a job! Now I have to weigh the utility of a fatty paycheck against the daily commute to San Jose and hating the work.”

To which Tim Levad (@timmylevad) – a Channel Partner at Cisco – replied:

“Who is the hiring manager. I’m sure they would love to know that you will hate the work. We here at Cisco are versed in the web.”

Now, what is one to learn from this? Any idiot would jump to say, “Don’t run your mouth on Twitter!” and most of them have.  I take a much different stance.

Lesson #1: Where were the LOLz?

RegretsClearly Tim Levad doesn’t have much of a sense of humor when it comes to Cisco. Does that mean Connor Riley can’t joke? Or for that matter, should we stop ribbing the people we rib every day on Twitter? Is everybody’s ego so freakin’ fragile or tied to what they do that they can’t take a joke?

Does that mean that if we bitch about our former co-workers we should make our profiles private? Hell no.

Transparency is everything. Nobody likes being lied to – and if you have even a smidgen of people skills, you’re able to tell when someone isn’t telling you the whole truth. That’s what’s so damn great about Twitter. 140 characters of 100% pure, unadulterated truth. You just can’t lie with that few characters.

Why would you ever want to punish honesty? Okay, so, there might be some truth to Connor’s joke, but at least you know exactly what Connor Riley is thinking about this job. And any HR professional will tell you that trying to get inside the mind of new recruits is not easy to do under other circumstances.

If we can learn anything from this atrocity of social media madness, we can learn that – really – this should have been no big deal. It was only a lack of LOLz from Tim-may and an over-zealous community that made it into the beast it’s become. Tim-may and everybody else should have gotten a giggle and moved on.

Should Connor have known better? No. She was playing by the rules of la vie boheme de Social Media: Truth, Transparency, and LOLz.

Lesson #2: Over-reaction Makes a Bad Situation Worse

Mean people exist in surprisingly large numbers. I’d normally call them Trolls, but, in this case… even education strategist John Connell (@JConnell) at Cisco agrees: “Have to say, I thought it was a bit priggish of our colleague to feed her to the lions”. Nobody, by the way, has called John out for his tweet.

The Internet used to be a place where verbal jousting was an Olympic-caliber game – those who were good at it were praised.  Those who were bad at it went home to try, try again.

It was all public (amongst nerds, at least) – and nobody’s feelings got trounced because that was how the game was played. Social media is now a much more public arena, but still very much the same as those old Usenet groups.

Just like in real life, though – the game becomes much more intense when a batter rushes the mound at some imaginary slight, the enforcer throws down on the ice, or nobody tells Cutler he’s gonna be traded. Over-reaction causes a bad situation to get much, much worse.

What I mean is – as the situation escalated, Connor Riley did what most of us would do: she tried to make everything private again – by deleting or hiding her social media tools. Unfortunately, this was the wrong approach. If you don’t control your own voice, someone else will: and speculation will take over in the place of facts (or at least first-hand accounts)!

Internet-savvy stalkers found Connor’s homepage, her Flickr account, and even looked up her old website on Google’s cached history, publishing them all for the world to see.

When Connor deleted or hid her social media tools – she effectively silenced herself… but she didn’t hide herself.

Which brings me to my final, scary point: There’s no going back. For any of us. The cow is out of the water.

The only option she had was to stand up, laugh at herself (or the situation) and move on. But she didn’t. At least, not yet.

Connor Riley’s story is one that will likely stick with her for the rest of her life, thanks to one inconsiderate Cisco fan’s tweet and Connor’s own over-reaction to the situation. It’s not one that has to HAUNT her. In fact, Connor has already taken the first steps to own this “crisis” and turn it into something not so haunting.  Good for her! Too bad that lesson came with such a huge pricetag.

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