A Modern Day Burning at the Stake of Cathryn Sloane

When I was applying for a public relations internship in college, I left the “L” out of public in the word public relations on my resume. That’s right. You know what that spells. The interviewer knew too. She pointed it out. I almost crawled under the conference room table.

"Why Every Social Media Manager Should Be under 25"

Amy Dean

Till this day, I have to double check to make sure the word public has that all important L when I type the word. I’ll go to my grave with that one.

We’ve all made mistakes in our careers. Fortunate for me, my gaffe wasn’t splashed across the internet at the time and it didn’t stick to me like a drunken midnight tattoo either. That’s not the case for Cathryn Sloane.

On July 20, 2012, Cathryn’s life changed forever. That’s the day her article Why Every Social Media Manager Should Be under 25 landed like a bomb on nextgen Journal. The response was fast and ferocious. If you don’t know what a modern-day burning at the stake looks like, check out the almost 600 comments on the article. Only a handful of them aren’t foaming at the mouth or gleefully mocking her. Her point of view made national headlines.

Cathryn is wrong and it’s obvious for many reasons, but that’s not why I’m writing this article. I don’t need to be one more person to jump on the mile-high dog pile.

Where is the Kindness?

What’s disappointing to me is that her elders stooped to her level. Only a few offered her some kind words of wisdom and sincerely steered her in the right direction. Mostly, the barrage of people over 30 who are fiercely proud of their social media management skills and history hurled stone after stone after stone.

Let me ask: what’s the point in being the 100th or 200th or 300th person to tell her how misguided she is? The person is down and they aren’t moving and you have to get in one more kick, really? How many finger-wagging comments does it take to teach someone a lesson?

At any time any of us could do something or say something to hurt someone else. It’s so easy to judge. What’s more difficult is recognizing the humanity in each and every person.

I don’t care how effective a social media manager you are or how long you’ve been on Twitter or writing a blog. What impresses me more is that you demonstrate the wisdom and compassion that is supposed to come with age.

Amy Dean is President of Dean Public Relations, offering multi-channel communications strategies and execution to raise the visibility of businesses. She provides strategic communications consulting, media relations outreach and social media writing and counseling.

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  1. I completely agree. It is a feeding frenzy on someones bad luck or judgment. After a bit enough is enough and let it go. None of us are perfect including the stone throwers. They would do well to remember that if or when the stones start coming their way.

    • Thanks, Susan. My friend and colleague Amy Dean wrote this and I posted it because I thought it was so on target. It’s like the British and the media jumping all over Mitt Romney because he made what I thought was a harmless remark about Britain being ready for the Olympic Games. Anything you say can and will be used against you!

  2. I think Amy statement about her elders stooping to her level sums it up. I have yet to meet anyone who has not said or written something when they were young and think years later that it was a dumb thing to do. It reminds me of my grandmother saying of you haven’t anything nice to say then be quiet.

    To me those who were older and experienced can’t be that confident in themselves if they need to boost their ego by hammering a young person.

    • Susan — my mother used to say to me, “don’t tear down others to build yourself up.” Sort of the same applies to those who criticized Cathryn — showing that they know better.

  3. Hopefully anyone and everyone can learn from her guffaw. Still you have to admit her whole premise is flawed because when WAS social media created? Certainly before Twitter and Facebook. So much earlier than that really. BBS (bulletin boards) started in the 1970s for discussions.

    But I digress to make a point. Neither the author nor those throwing stones will likely have any victory or learning because there isn’t even a discussion, let alone civility. But civility seems to be a lost art today – possibly because of – heaven forbid I say it, because of social media.

    Like Susan commented, what happened to – put your best foot forward? Just because Cathryn didn’t, doesn’t excuse those commenters too.

    • Pat- you are so right. I think civility is being lost on social media. Maybe it’s because people can hide behind phony names. I hope the trend doesn’t continue.

  4. Am often amazed how people behave online. Don’t they understand that search engines record everything and forget nothing?

    Agree that her elders stooped to her level.

    But Cathryn really should have thought twice before publishing the article in question. Unless she is keen on getting a bad reputation in the whole world. In the online world a mistake can come back to haunt us 20 years from now. We should also note that the same applies to the people who commented on her artilce.

    Another thing that baffles me is how some people bully and insult others, even on Linkedin. Don’t they realize that they are digging their own grave? Many companies now have software that shows everything a person writes on social media. Who wants to hire or do business with someone who insults others online?