Judges and Social Media: Abiding by Wheaton’s Law

[Editor’s note – Hi there, folks! I asked a fellow judge who prefers to remain anonymous if they’d take on this topic in a guest post. So, the words below aren’t mine, but only edited by me. They also include the perspectives of more than one other high-level judge. So please take them to heart. In short, this is good advice and I live by it, but I can’t take the credit for it. For those who aren’t aware, the title refers to Wheaton’s Law which, as coined by Wil Wheaton of Star Trek and Geek & Sundry fame, is “Don’t be a dick.”]

It’s a difficult concept to grasp at first, but your social media feed is not your personal and sacred space. Even if you’ve managed to navigate the various settings and have limited your circles to your family and the fake profile you made for your cat, it’s probably more public than you realize. This exposure goes exponential when you start tagging people, using hashtags, or opening your social circle to a wide group of acquaintances.

At this point you’ve likely lost interest in what I’ve said entirely and have probably gone to Facebook or Twitter to investigate your current settings (and if I haven’t lost you by this point to that action, I strongly suggest you go double check).

Being a part of the Judge Program means that there is a set of standards and expectations every time you choose to associate yourself with its brand and image. We call it the Magic Judge Code. But this article didn’t come about because of misconduct on social media. In fact, actual “You’ve breached the Magic Judge Code!” misconduct via social media should take some real effort to achieve, and simply being a jerk in that venue shouldn’t catch the attention of the Judge Conduct Committee.

But you can still adversely affect your destiny in the Judge Program by being a jerk on social media. The Judge Program is comprised of people, and we act like people in deciding who we associate with, who we’re friends with, and who we decide to work with.

In a sense, that “personal” space on Facebook or wherever else isn’t actually yours. It’s everyone else’s. It feeds through into the personal space of everyone else to whom you’re connected. In real terms of “where it exists” it’s in fact more theirs than yours.

I know what you’re thinking…

“It’s My Own Personal Private Space, I’ll Post What I Want!”

I cannot count how many times this argument is used when someone talks about their brand on social media. And the reason why this point is first in this discussion is simple. Social media doesn’t work like a normal conversation between two individuals.

When you tag a person on Facebook, here’s what happens. You can see it, your friends can see it, the person you tagged can see it, the friends of the individual you tagged can see it. That’s a lot of people.

Yes, you can help manage this by making sure that your settings are in sync with your desired profile specifications, but these get reset often (thanks, Facebook), so be sure to keep this in mind when tagging.

With all this in mind, what do you do now? Here are a few tips to help you better understand best posting practices while representing the Judge Program (or really any other organization you want to represent).

Be Positive
It’s okay to use criticism, but make it constructive.

Be Excellent to One Another
When someone is being a jerk to you, remember that they’re still a person. If someone is being rude and you insist on engaging, do so carefully. Empathize. Try to understand why they feel the way they do without immediately seeking to change that feeling.

Tag Thoughtfully
You should not just watch the pictures staff post, but you should also be sure to keep a close eye on pictures in which you are tagged. Some judges don’t want to be tagged in event-related photos. Backlash over an inappropriate photo, regardless of who posts it is a very real thing. The best practice here is to tag yourself, and let others tag themselves. If you want to tag someone else, ask them.

Pick Your Battles
Yes, it’s the Internet. Yes, you will run into people whose opinions are considered by the majority to be horrifically and shockingly insensitive or just plain wrong. If you insist on breathing life into a conflicted discussion, keep it civil, cite your sources, and respect the personal boundaries of others involved, even if they don’t respect yours.

Take A Deep Breath Before You Post
Often, the most troublesome posts regarding judging are ones where the initial person posting doesn’t consider their audience together with the feelings they want to express. If you wouldn’t get up in front of a room full of the people who can see your post and make the same statement, stop and reconsider.

Understand the Limits of Your Chosen Media
The languages we use to communicate are based heavily on context and tone. The fullness of your meaning doesn’t come across in the static characters on a page. Even if you punctuate with special emoticons and Power Ranger stickers, only part of the message you’re intending can get through. Snark, sarcasm, wit, praise, or really any emotion conveyed through spoken communication risks being garbled when conveyed through text alone. This loss of context means that once you put a post out into the world, you can’t control how someone else understands it. It is imperative that you write with your audience (your possible audience, not your intended audience) foremost in your mind.

Learn When to Walk Away
If you feel as though someone is beyond help, and there is no way for you to get your point across to them, and they insist on being self destructive, ignore them and walk away. This does not mean, “Go on a vaguebooking spree!” or “Post passive aggressively in another corner of the Internet!” It means, “Take the high road, and walk away.”

If you really feel strongly about responding to something inflammatory, rather than feed the trolls, try this instead: type your response, read it over, imagine all those sweet “likes”, “shares”, and “favorites”, and then delete it without posting. Really. Try it. You’ll be surprised at how satisfying it is.

Another person being a jerk to you is not a valid reason for you to reply being a jerk as well. You can’t control what others do, but you can control your own actions. Take responsibility for them. All judges, regardless of level, are seen as community leaders by players and others in our community. Consider what do you expect of a leader, and live up to that expectation.

If after reading this you’re still of the mind that, “I’ll say whatever I want, to and about whomever I want,” then the hard and honest advice is to remove your obvious association to the Judge Program from your profile. Change that profile photo of you in your judge uniform, and remove the line in your bio that reflects your judge level. Stop calling Magic Judge an occupation.

For the purposes of the Magic Judge Code, removing your obvious association to the Judge program from social media is fine if your goal is “avoid misconduct”. However, if you’re using social media to network with Magic Judge” as a quasi-profession rather than simply trade cat pictures and funny links with friends, then you should probably treat it like a network of professional contacts and not a free-flowing “anything goes” thread more suited to 4chan than Linkedin.

So, here’s a set of simple best practices for being a judge on social media:

1. Use a profile pic that’s not you in uniform or the Magic Judge logo. The Magic Judge Code specifically calls out things you do while in your judge uniform, and if your entire Facebook presence is in the judge uniform, it (at a minimum) blurs that line.

2. Don’t list “Judge” or “Magic Judge” as your profession. See #1 above. Also, note that your “job” as listed on Facebook appears next to your name when you comment on some articles which use Facebook plug-ins.

3. Let others control their own social media presence.

4. Seek to defuse conflict rather than creating it.

5. Be excellent to one another.

Thanks for reading. Until next time,

Sean Catanese [and several unnamed-but-awesome contributors – you know who you are!]

This entry was posted in Conflict Resolution, Public Image, Stress. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Judges and Social Media: Abiding by Wheaton’s Law

  1. Charles Featherer says:

    Kudos to whoever the anonymous person(s) was who contributed to this article. This was well thought out and presented.

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