Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and to a much lesser extent, LinkedIn, have mostly proven an invaluable resource for me, not simply for promoting my book, but also for political activism, networking and even hosting internet radio programs like Conservative Republican Republican Forum (which recently celebrated its one-year anniversary) and The Liberty Belle Hour (still on hiatus until August).
But as I’ve learned in the political realm, social media — when employed by unscrupulous people — can also wreak havoc and damage innocent reputations, if left unchecked. And if I had a nickel for every time I’ve had to block a Ron Paul freak on Facebook, I’d be able to donate large sums of money to every conservative candidate of my choice.
On a personal note, before I parlayed my grassroots activism into an online revolutionary presence (along with countless other like-minded Americans), I experienced the downside of this new medium. In December of 2008, Water Signs had been on the market just three months, and I was busy finding new and creative ways to advertise it in cyberspace and in the real world. I hadn’t heard from “Ken” since our Labor Day chat, and other than knowing he’d created a free log-in on the website (which enables readers to sample five chapters), I had no idea if he’d even read the entire book — and if so — whether he loved or hated it.
Then one day in early December, I got a very strange request via the LinkedIn website, allegedly from “Ken”, who at the time was one of my connections (though for obvious reasons, no longer). Although I don’t spend much time at all on this site, never having developed a real liking for it, back then I utilized it quite a bit. And since I’d received many previous requests via LinkedIn for recommendations before, I was well-acquainted with their official style and format, versus a “fake” made to appear as if it’s coming from their site.
Anyway, this request for recommendation from “Kenneth Lockheart” looked like all of the others when I opened it up in my email account. However, when I read the personalized message, I knew immediately something was definitely off:
I am sending this to ask you for a brief recommendation of my work that I can include in my LinkedIn profile. If you have any questions, let me know. Responsible, professional, thorough…big johnson…what have you…haha…basically make something up.
Thanks in advance for helping me out. I will do the same. Let’s get creative.
First, for anyone who might not be aware, “johnson” is a colloquial term for a guy’s manhood, the equivalent of “gonads” or as Michelle Malkin once famously referred to them, “gumballs”. For all of his faults, the “Ken” I knew never disrespected me, nor did he ever use any sort of colorful language around me, even when angry. So for him to throw in the line about a “big johnson” was completely out of the norm. In fact, the moment I read the email, my intuition sounded the alarm that this ridiculous request did not in fact originate with “Ken”, but with his wife.
Secondly, other than the little he’d shared with me on the phone, I didn’t know much about “Ken’s” professional life, and was therefore unqualified to make a recommendation in the first place. I wasn’t a client who could testify to his excellent follow-up and pervasive knowledge of his product. I was just someone who remembered him as having a stellar work ethic, which is evident through my description of his character in Water Signs.
Lastly, the request came from out of the blue. As I mentioned, we’d not spoken in three months, during which time I’d published the book. If he didn’t think enough of the novel — in which a character based on him plays a dominant role — to email or call me with some kind of reaction, what on earth would compel him to suddenly ask for a reference via LinkedIn?
None of it made sense. And though I knew in my heart who the responsible party was, I am not one to throw out unfounded accusations. I needed some proof.
For a few weeks, I did nothing, as the hectic Christmas Season unfolded and I busied myself with the usual activities that characterize that time of year. However, during a visit to Philly later that month, my cousin encouraged me to email him to get to the truth. I regret that I refused to give him the benefit of the doubt when crafting my correspondence — per Annie’s protective instincts. I also regret that I allowed her to talk me into using “WTF” as the subject line. But my biggest mistake by far was failing to initially forward the original request to him, complete with the official LinkedIn header.
Instead, in a new email, I wrote:
Just had a minute to review my inbox again as I am extremely busy promoting my book. Quite honestly, your email had me very perplexed, thus explaining the subject line of this response. I am not sure exactly why you are asking for a recommendation since I’ve never been a client and haven’t been a part of your life in any meaningful way in quite a long time. As for the “johnson” comment, well…I obviously wouldn’t know anything about that. 🙂
Regarding the recommendation, I only give those out for people whose work I am familiar with.
Sorry I couldn’t help you,
I don’t know if he’s constantly plugged in via computer or BlackBerry, but his response was almost instantaneous, incredibly terse, definitely rude and — as you will note, lacking in proper punctuation:
recommendation? not sure what happened as I don’t need any… sorry. good luck with the book. hope your readers enjoy.. adios
That prompted me to dig through my emails to retrieve the original LinkedIn request and send it back to him, along with the subject line, “Maybe this will refresh your memory. Happy New Year!”
It would be nearly a year before I’d hear anything from him again.
However, a few weeks later the mystery was solved when MyLife.com sent me a link to a list of people who’d recently check out my profile (which I promptly deleted from that site). Surprise, surprise…”Erin” had been one of them. Moreover, she’d looked me up on December 9, and I’d received the LinkedIn request shortly thereafter. My gut instinct had been correct, it had been her all along. But rather than follow-up with “Ken”, I decided to let the matter drop.
This led me to conclude that both “Ken” and “Erin” had not only read Water Signs, but that it had opened up a torrent of emotion. What else would explain her deception in logging into a social media site with her husband’s credentials and falsely requesting a work recommendation from me?
But what exactly did she hope to gain? If she suspected her husband was being unfaithful, did she really think this was a viable method of catching him in the act? I suppose in the age of social media, such antiquated notions like hiring a private detective have gone the way of the beeper.
This is all very ironic as well, considering the fact that I haven’t even been in the same room with “Ken” since the mid-90s. If he’d in fact cheated on her, it certainly hadn’t been with me.
I don’t know what went through “Ken’s” mind when he saw the original LinkedIn email I forwarded, but I do know how hurt and angry I’d felt after he basically told me to go to hell. Come to think of it, that was quite an overreaction; was he really that offended by “WTF”? Hard to imagine.
Anyway, in January of 2009 — concurrent with discovering Erin’s LinkedIn deception, I attended a marketing seminar in Boca Raton, where the expression “six degrees of separation” would take on new and personal meaning. More on that in my next post.