Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The Consequences of Freedom Of Speech on Your Business

I have remained quiet on the Ferguson issue for a couple of reasons.  The main reason is because I refuse to judge either side as I was not there and did not see what occurred with my own two eyes.  However I realize that this issue isn't only about the events of that day.  And a young boy is dead.  There is now arguing with that.  Also there are some scary things going on in the US which I believe are highlighted in this video.

I also read this article which I found to express some of the reasons I'm not commenting on Ferguson but on other points it missed the mark for me personally.  This is exactly why I reserve judgement.  I don't believe either side, in any story, is completely true and without fault.  I believe every one's experience on this planet is different and unique.  What is right for you may not be right for me.  This article highlights my point.  People struggle no matter what color they are and when we start making it a black or white issue people want to defend their own experience.

Amongst the arguments and comments I've seen a lot of interesting, disturbing, and sometimes moving posts and articles on Facebook.  However where I draw the line in the dialog came a few days ago, and because it related to business, I thought I would comment.

Some years ago in my state of Oregon there was a news story about how a bakery refused to make a wedding cake for a lesbian couple because it was against the owner's religious beliefs.  They might have felt they were standing up for their values, and while they received a lot of support from their side, the ultimate result was they lost their business.  Whether you agree or not that was the final result.

A person in my Facebook friends made a post that bothered me so much I was forced to take an action.  Now this person is not someone that I know personally.  In fact I don't recognize her at all, except that she has a handmade teddy bear as her profile picture, so I assume she is an artisan.  I don't know if I friended her or she friended me, and I also don't know if she is a customer of mine.

I had noticed her posting articles that were heavily leaning on the side of the police officer who killed Michael Brown.  I have no problem with opinions, because like I said, I don't know what happened, and I don't think any of us really do, except those who were involved.  And I won't call myself open-minded while also refusing to listen to both sides.  I decided to click on the comments of one of her posts and was blown away by the argument going on between her and one of her friends.  She made comments like "They (black people) need to get over it.  It has been 200 years since slavery", "The first slave owner was black", and "if they (black people) don't like it they should go back to Africa".

I can't tell you how disgusting and irrelevant I find these arguments.  I'm sure someone can respond intelligently to this nonsense, but I prefer not to argue with people who use unintelligent comments to inflame a situation.  If you find yourself in the same situation read this article.  It expresses my point perfectly.

Well before I get off track, and do exactly what I'm warning you against, let me tell you how this relates to business:  I deleted her immediately.  My personal Facebook page is not a place I want to be confronted with this garbage.  It's not a place I want to see videos of child abuse either (which incidentally I also found on her page when I was trying to see who she was).  Now, she is welcome to like my business page, but my personal page is in my control, and I chose to keep this type of thing out of my personal space as much as I possibly can.

This brings me back to the reason for my silence on most issues I see posted to Facebook.  I normally refuse to comment on religion, politics or other hot-button issues because I am not going to try to alienate or provoke my customers.  Remember, everyone on your personal page and business page is a potential customer.  Let's face it, my personal Facebook page should be a place to express myself, but we all need to get real and realize it is absolutely not.  If you feel the self-righteous need to post controversial topics that you know will potentially upset people, then you must realize that the consequences could be a loss of business.  Maybe you don't care.  Maybe you tell yourself that you are standing up for what's right, or what you believe, and that might be true, but realize that broadcasting your personal opinion affects your business.

You need to decide if what you have to say is worth the loss of business.  In my opinion it is not.  Keep your personal life and your business life separate.  Most businesses are just not a platform for this type of commentary.

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