Guest post by Jeremy Tick.
Ten years ago I made a mistake. I stopped doing business with my business partner.
My colleague had made a larger financial investment and felt he owned more of the firm. Because it was my sales and marketing that helped the business quickly grow I thought the partnership equal. We could never agree on who owned what and tensions frequently arose. When this happened, he reminded me of my youth and less formal education. The relationship became deleterious to both my confidence and my ability to produce and it hurt the business. After learning that he withdrew a larger portion of our income for himself without my consent, I left.
As children we’re taught to ignore bullies. As adults we’re taught that relationships are sometimes transactional and we need to move on. I thought I understood both sentiments and responded accordingly. But these are not the old days anymore – we live in “Reality 2.0.”
Unsuccessful in running the business without me, my partner closed it down. Ten years later, however, he still maintains the company website with the caption on Google stating the business is out of business and “cannot be held accountable for any of Jeremy Tick’s actions.” Embedded in it are links to my old resume, tax documents from 2004, and a slew of defaming blog posts, written by him, about me. These posts attack my personal character, work ethic, educational and socio-economic background and psyche. Despite my effort to end an unhealthy relationship the web won’t let me. My former partner doesn’t have to do anything to maintain our connection: Google does it for him. And I pay the price.
When I first learned of the blog’s existence I paid no attention. It was 2004 and I had never heard of a blog. But while earning my Master’s Degree these posts became of concern. Despite being in a top-notch school with significant real world experience, my resume didn’t get nearly as much attention as those of my peers.
I soon learned why. It was now 2007 and ever more frequently people were being “Googled” by hiring parties. Curious, I looked up my name and found the return search populated entirely by these slanderous posts. Unbeknownst to me, the relationship was still alive in the eyes of the world – and that was the only thing that mattered.
Learning that most websites claim no responsibility for the content they house, I attempted to create alternative content to push the blog down in search results but it was so chock full of my full name that anything I created was secondary. Some ‘THING,’ had more control over my own name than me.
But I’m not the only one.
Businesses suffer tremendously when unwarranted or exaggerated negative feedback is posted without recourse. People are hurt when bullying occurs over social media. These mediums, by their design, empower the abuse and further disempower the abused. The repercussions of such acts are of far greater consequence than the costs: it’s easy to do, often anonymous and, as evidence has shown, it can hurt.
It’s sad that this vehicle with which we can do so much good can render us so imprisoned by our new ‘sensationalist’ behaviors. ‘Business at the Speed of Thought,’ might not be so thoughtful. But we can change that. Through the speed with which we exchange information and the impact we quickly have on others, we can actively redefine what constitutes social norms, decorum, and common sense. We must learn to exalt compassion, kindness and responsibility ‘online’ and not tolerate petty meanness and hate – just as we do not when ‘offline’. We need to remember that some relationships live their course and come to an end, that just as in real life, some things are better left unsaid, even online. Our impact on others, not because of a lack of proximity to them, but because of our new proximity to everyone, has become far more substantial. With any new tool comes precaution for its potential harm. We need to learn to use this one more responsibly.
So go ahead, Google me. Besides learning what a crud I once may have been, you’ll learn just how accomplished and resilient I am - how despite the one negative check in my background, I’ve done some pretty cool things – probably because Google encouraged me to do so. I dare you, Google me. Just remember, don’t believe everything you read online.
Guest blog post by Jeremy Tick, Coach for Entrepreneurs. A business owner since the age of 24, Jeremy is uniquely familiar with the challenges faced by individuals at all stages of business development. His work is dedicated to aid Creative Professionals in building meaningful brands and developing systems and structures for success with which to create sustainable profit. You can reach Jeremy at www.jeremytick.com and www.tickmanagement.com