Friday, 25 July 2014

Taught A Lesson on Humility on LinkedIn...And I Deserved It.

I've never been a fantastic writer. I dabble infrequently. I write to entertain my friends and I. I've been known to laugh often at absurd and inappropriate things. 

On the evening of 4th June 2014, I posted an article titled "15 Surefire Signs That You're A Geek" on my personal blog, my social media accounts and LinkedIn. The article was intended as a humorous caricature on myself and the developers that I collaborate with. Day in and day out, I can't help but observe certain traits of the professionals with whom I come into contact. In the article, I am hideously guilty of all the points mentioned. I did not research the definition of the words, 'geek, nerds, techie' thoroughly. I knew only what I knew from the mobile telecommunications industry I worked in. Late in the evening, as I cobbled together the hodgepodge list; little did I realize what kind of ramifications it'd have.

I pride myself for being an eloquent and precise communicator. On this occasion, I was tragically wrong on both counts. 

The article was never suited for a LinkedIn audience, which was interested more in professional topics. The article was too unsubstantial and more suited for a BuzzFeed or blogger environment. Beyond the unsuitability, what was intended as a cheeky treatise went viral too quickly. 

In an hour after it was posted, there were over 7,000 views as the article somehow got selected for the Pulse 'Editor's Picks' section. I did not request for the highlight. I do not even know how an article is chosen. As of this writing on 5th June 2015, 1930h GMT, there are slightly over 55,000 views. I have never gotten more than 1,000 views before on any article. I was elated. That must have meant people liked what I was writing about!

Comments flew in rapidly. I loved especially the ones where members identified with the list and contributed more points of their own. While I enjoyed my newly-minted and spurious 'fame' on LinkedIn, I noticed more and more criticisms being posted. As I slowly read through the comments logged by other LinkedIn users, more than 40% of the feedback was strong criticism against the article. I was horrified. That was no other word for it. 

Some left the equivalent of muted 'groans'. The gentler critics said I completely misrepresented what constitutes a proper geek or nerd, a few termed me a 'wannabe geek' who was totally clueless. Some critics labelled me a 'offensive, cyber bully' guilty of perpetuating unfair stereotypes and I was being insulting. Some called the article a 'total waste of time, dumb rubbish or utter nonsense' (ouch!) Another LinkedIn member advised me not to comment on geeks as I only had a degree in communication studies. One particularly vocal member carried on his critique the next day, opined as to why I wasn't censured and fired already. 

Every negative comment hurt. It rocked me to the core. I never thought for a moment that I'd be so far off the mark. And worse, it highlighted how precious little I knew about the solid, hardworking men and women who worked in various fields. I had completely left out entire industries (academic, medical, chemical, agriculture, entertainment, etc.) because they weren't familiar to me. I had not realized my 30 plus minutes of written mischief has brought on the ire of so many. It was one thing to be criticized by my own supervisor when my work was sub-par. When the weight of the technically-minded LinkedIn community was lambasting me for an ill-placed article in a professional environment, it was something else altogether. I'm used to delivering at 100% all the time, but when 40% of feedback was negative. It meant I failed and miserably. It just means I was doing it all wrong. It was an incredibly humbling experience.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines it as: 


noun\hyü-ˈmi-lə-tē, yü-\

I have a simple tattoo in Latin on the inside of my forearm. It reads "Veritas vos liberabit", which translates as "the truth shall set you free." I got it years ago as a personal motto to be unfailingly truthful in all my dealings. I confess, I enjoyed the fact that so many people did read and share the article on LinkedIn and via Twitter. It was exhilarating to get such great virality with content that I created. In retrospect, I fully admit the article was not appropriate for LinkedIn members, who should be entitled to opinions of a higher calibre. I sincerely thank those members that liked it and took the time to encourage me. 

I'm not a big fan of self-censorship but to accord the respect to the members who found it inappropriate; the article will be taken down from LinkedIn immediately. I'll leave the comments as a stern reminder to myself.

I am not better than other people. I acted like a wannabe. It was a lesson in humility on LinkedIn and I deserved it.