For our writer, a name is more than a collection of letters. It’s what you stand for — and what you’ll stand up for.
I don’t mean to contradict the Bard, but I think there is more to a name than just an arbitrary collection of letters that identify someone or something. I always have.
“Your good name is everything in this world,” they would say. “It can take a lifetime to build up, but only a moment to ruin.”
This is something I took to heart and that has guided me throughout my life. It’s probably also no accident that I chose PR as a profession and now spend my working days guarding the good names of my clients.
The importance to me of my name was brought home one night recently when I received a private message from an acquaintance on Twitter. He informed me I’d been “called out” in that week’s episode of a podcast that focuses on pop culture, technology and social media.
“What?” I wrote back. “What did I do?”
My acquaintance didn’t reply right away and so my brain began to spin scenarios in my head. Had I done something wrong? Had I offended someone? Had my use of Twitter/Facebook/LinkedIn been held up for ridicule?
What was going on?
(Side note: If you’re ever telling someone they’ve been slammed in public, it’s probably a good idea to give some context, if only to prevent possible cardiac arrest.)
That my mind leaped to my use of social media is interesting, but not surprising. It’s the sphere in which my name is most public. I am active on Twitter and Facebook, and interact daily with a wide range of people. I am also careful about how I use social media, the image I project, and what I do with my good name online. Of course, I’m not perfect. I occasionally engage in the odd bit of whining or complaining, especially if I’ve gotten bad service. I can be quick with a witty or Smart Alec comeback that might be taken the wrong way. But, in general, I think I do OK, and the thought I’d been “called out” for something I’d done online upset me a great deal.
Since my acquaintance still wasn’t providing additional details, I DM’d friends on Twitter who I knew listened to the podcast. I also fired up my computer and downloaded the episode.
Within about 30 minutes I’d pieced together what happened.
The podcast has a Facebook page and, because I know someone involved with it, I “liked” it. At the start of the episode in question, one of the podcast’s main commentators – not my friend, who wasn’t there for that week’s show – decided to call out, at random, people who had liked the Facebook page but who had never joined the online chat during the live podcast. My name wasn’t alone. Several others were mentioned. The general tone was one of ridicule and insult.
OK, mystery solved. I wasn’t being called out for anything I’d done. Perversely, it was something I hadn’t done that sent my name spinning into cyberspace. Once I’d understood this, I calmed down – and then I got angry. Really, really angry. It took a couple of days for me to simmer down. I didn’t do anything overtly public about it, as I know that’s not the way to handle such things, but, privately, I was pretty outraged.
When I finally cooled off and could look rationally at my response, I realized why the situation had pushed my buttons. On the surface, I suppose you could say I was overreacting. After all, I wasn’t being called out for something I had done. And, yet, that was the point. I hadn’t done anything to provoke the misuse of my name. All I’d done was like a Facebook page for a podcast – an act I’ve now remedied – and then chosen not to listen to it live. That’s it. And, for that, my good name was called into question.
I believe that there are consequences for our actions. If I’ve done something wrong or offended someone, then, by all means, call me out for it (though, perhaps try a more private means of alerting me first). But to have my name abused when I hadn’t done anything to deserve it, that’s just not right.
It especially angered me to have my name misused online, where I’ve taken great pains to build up trust and relationships. I meet many people online before I meet them in person – and so my online good name has become just as important as my in-person good name, if not more. The fact that it was someone who only knows me online who alerted me to the situation in the first place only underscores this fact. Even though I think he knows there’s more to me than this one situation, I will probably be forever associated in his mind with being called out in that podcast, and there’s not a darn thing I can do about it.
So, maybe I can’t take a joke. Maybe I overreacted. But, I don’t think so. I think it’s more that I know the power of having a good name – and the importance of respecting the good names of others.
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