The ramifications of speaking your mind on social media and what happens when others interpret these musings (or how I almost lost my job.)

On November 9th, I posted to a link on Facebook to one of my personal blog postings.

The blog post delineated my irritation with the actions of a Syracuse Common Councilor objecting to the style of homes built by the local chapter of Habitat for Humanity on the city’s Near West Side. I made several points:

1) The Habitat homes are affordable, energy efficient and create new homeowners in an area that has seen a sharp decrease in owner occupancy.

2) The Councilor was objecting to homes that were not being built in his district.

3) The Councilor made his objections in a public forum (the Syracuse Planning Commission) instead of working through channels and starting a reasonable discussion about the aesthetics of home design by local non-profit housing agencies.

That last point was why I entitled my post “A Dick Move.” The Urban Dictionary’s secondary description of this phrase states: “Pulling a dick move is engaging in an egregious, selfish and usually public stunt . . .”

When a Facebook friend shared my link to her Facebook page–the Common Councilor in question responded in the comments–and a brief back and forth on the issue ensued.

Unfortunately, this is not where it ended. A Facebook friend Ed Griffin-Nolan is a columnist for the Syracuse New Times and he recently wrote a column about this issue.

Did he write about the substance of my argument? No. He played literary games with the title of my post, claiming that a search on Wikipedia brought no definitions for “dick move” and got the Councilor to say–“He’s basically saying that I’m a dick.”

Now Mr. Griffin-Nolan is a great writer and has done some wonderful things in our community. He’s currently organizing a benefit for Sandy Storm relief and I encourage everyone to donate.

What steams me is the liberties Mr Griffin-Nolan took with my arguments, the facile description of my title and the twisting of my words just to accuse me of “name calling.” He did not once talk to me about my post–I doubt he read past the title. If he had done so he would know that I have always liked the Councilor in question, that I was arguing for exactly the kind of dialogue he argued for in his piece–and that good, kind people can always make dick moves–it doesn’t mean they are bad people.

The phrase was used–and absolutely in its proper context–to describe the action of testifying before the Planning Commission as sort of a publicity stunt. The Councilor is certainly well meaning about this issue–but his methods were not.

The major problem I am facing immediately is the ramifications of Mr. Griffin-Nolan’s characterization of my private Facebook post linking to my private blog as coming from “longtime Syracuse United Neighbors organizer Phil Prehn.” This is a small town and I’m now wondering if I can afford to react to issues on a personal basis via social media without compromising my work organizing residents. I do not speak for SUN, I am an employee of the members of the organization.

What this all means for me is that I have to re-think how I use Facebook. I will be thinking through how my social media activity is interpreted and how I interact with the public online. The only thing I know for sure–I have one less friend on Facebook.