Don’t use sites that support this negativity. They often make money by you using the site. They will listen when people leave their site.
As a part of my interview series about the things we can each do to make social media and the internet a kinder and more tolerant place, I had the pleasure to interview Marc Kaplan.
Marc is a visionary and began the ChekMarc journey with a vision for a free, positive and uplifting community where people could connect and drive change. He is beyond excited and energized to see his vision come to fruition. Marc has often commented that he wished ChekMarc existed prior to the business being launched because he would have benefited immensely from other experts in the field. He will most surely have Explorer requests, as he knows the power of tapping into the right expertise and knowledge. Marc is also looking forward to give back to the community and act as a Catalyst in areas of professional development, travel advice, and other expert areas that allow him to draw on his own experiences.
Prior to founding ChekMarc, Marc was a Partner at Deloitte where he held several executive roles, including P&L responsibility for a large business, Chief Strategy and Transformation.
Officer for one of the four business areas of Deloitte, and was a member of one the firm’s Board subcommittees. Over the course of his career at Deloitte and before, Marc has a track record of leading, growing and transforming businesses.
In his time away from ChekMarc, Marc enjoys Raw Rev Glo bars (too many a day), enjoys time with his wife and two kids while only understanding one of the three languages spoken in his home, and exercises daily so that he can eat the Raw Rev Glo bars.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?
I grew up in a smallish town in Upstate New York. I went to college in Boston, then grad school in Virginia and then found my way to NYC. I live 18 miles east of NYC with my wife and two teenage kids. I LOVE to eat food. And I love to exercise, mainly because I love to eat food! My career has been a mix between working in industry and working in different size consulting companies. My passion has always been building and transforming businesses, and growing and developing the people around me to achieve their goals. I was a Partner at Deloitte for a long time. I had a creative and innovative itch in me to build my own business. At 50 I left Deloitte to follow my passion and co-found ChekMarc, an online global platform that provides a community of purpose for people to connect with each other 1:1 to make a meaningful impact on each other’s life in a safe, secure, private, positive and free manner. Basically, ChekMarc connects people where one person is focused on achieving an important goal and another is focused on helping you achieve that goal. Simple as it sounds, it is unique how we do it. I am not the 20-year old entrepreneur. But I have a lot of experience and a big vision for building something amazing that is currently just in its infancy. ChekMarc, and the great team I work with, consumes most of my time these days.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
I have had a ton of interesting experiences but the funniest one was early in my career when a colleague asked me to go to Florida (from New York) to help him with a program he was running for a client. I flew to Florida and the next morning I rolled into the meeting ready to help and the client turns to my colleague and says, “What is he doing here?” Clearly the client was not aware that a second person was showing up, so I promptly exited stage left, went to the airport and flew home!
There was also the time I was in Germany for a client meeting. I was concerned that I would not like the food at the restaurant the clients were taking me to, so I went to a sushi place near my hotel for a quick pre-meal….think very small restaurant (3 small tables and one big square table for big groups). So I was one of essentially 3 people in the restaurant at the time. Guess where the clients chose to take me two hours later?!
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I was once in Denmark for a week-long meeting with a client. They had the meeting at this beautiful lodge deep in the woods 45 minutes from Copenhagen. I’m an exercise buff. So I took a taxi 45 minutes into Scala and worked out at this 24-hour gym. When I went to leave, I realized I had no idea where I was going. The key was a key, not a card with a name on it. It was 1am and I had no idea where to go, cell phones were not the norm then, people did not have smartphones, and I was at a loss. All I remembered was that it used to be a royal hunting lodge, the czarina of Russia used to stay there, and it faced Sweden. Took me three different taxi drivers before one figured it out. I think you can easily guess the lesson learned from this.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Yes, I am super excited about the new business we launched last month. We launched ChekMarc, a global technology platform that connects people one-on-one in a safe, secure, private and free manner to help people make a positive impact in each other’s lives. It is an online platform that does a ton of good for people and the world. We don’t consider it social media, but we did learn a lot from what is and is not working in social media.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main focus of our interview. Have you ever been publicly shamed or embarrassed on social media? Can you share with our readers what that experience felt like?
I personally have stayed away from social media for this reason. I have had one too many people tell me about rough experiences they have had on it. Though recently when we launched our company, a couple people made rude and inappropriate comments on our social media sites. I also had a colleague who recently posted something very positive on her profile, and some person attacked her for not responding to him years ago about something. This rattled her to the point where it ruined her entire day.
What did you do to shake off that negative feeling?
I knew when we started our business, we were going to get some rude comments. Even though our business is about uniting humanity and only allows positive interactions on our site, I knew there were going to be people who just wanted to say obnoxious things. At first, I was just not going to read the comments. But then I realized it is better to know what people are saying. I personally choose not to let it get to me. I ignore it, take the high road and choose not to engage in it.
But I know this is not so easy. We actually conducted our own research and it showed an alarming percentage of people who had negative interactions in the past month on social media and even a good percentage of people who ended a relationship with a relative over social media interaction.
Have you ever posted a comment on social media that you regretted because you felt it was too harsh or mean?
I have learned over the years that what you write in text and email, you cannot take back. It becomes memorialized. And while I have not been active on social media up until recently, so I have not regretted anything I have posted, I do have learnings from previous digital interactions. Reflecting on the few times I have communicated in a digital manner in a way that I am not proud of, my learnings have been three-fold. 1. Difficult discussions are best had as spoken discussions. 2. Take a breath and some time away to center yourself before engaging. When emotions are high it is tougher to communicate effectively. 3. The old adage of “don’t speak if you don’t have something nice to say” has a lot of relevance.
Can you describe the evolution of your decisions? Why did you initially write the comment, and why did you eventually regret it?
In the situation I was thinking about, my feelings were hurt about something and it was a bit of the straw that broke the camels back. My emotions got the best of me. There was no reason to be so harsh about it. I could have just gone high when others went low and moved on with my life.
When one reads the comments on Youtube or Instagram, or the trending topics on Twitter, a great percentage of them are critical, harsh, and hurtful. The people writing the comments may feel like they are simply tapping buttons on a keyboard, but to the one on the receiving end of the comment, it is very different. This may be intuitive, but I feel that it will be instructive to spell it out. Can you help illustrate to our readers what the recipient of a public online critique might be feeling?
I have colleagues who tell me that when they get a negative comment on social media it literally ruins their entire day, no matter how well that day was going. It is way too easy for people to flippantly make comments that other people internalize with an intensity of negative emotion. We are human beings, and we have feelings. Words matter and they can cut deeply. This is one of the reasons our social platform does not allow negativity. One of the real issues with social platforms is that people don’t necessarily see the impact of their actions and therefore many people operate online with an absence of empathy. They simply do not understand the pain they can cause others and without an accountability measure or fear of consequence, this can spiral into bullying, harassment and complete degradation of another human being.
Do you think a verbal online attacks feels worse or less than a verbal argument in “real life”? How are the two different?
I don’t think they feel great in either situation but online there is no clear identity of the person attacking you, others can pile on and before you know it, droves of people are attacking you for no reason. It is public for the world to see which can be humiliating and you are defenseless.
What long term effects can happen to someone who was shamed online?
This is the most troubling part. There have been many reports of increased depression, anxiety and even suicide from mass bullying and negativity online. With so many people spending more and more of their life online, this negativity can be misconstrued as their reality. It is terrible to look at what goes on online between people, the judgments people make against others, and this culture of shaming that has emerged. We are people, nobody is all good and nobody is all bad. It is really easy to type harsh words about someone you don’t really know based on some small factoid about their life that may or may not even be true, and to create a groundswell of harshness toward that person who is defenseless from the mass onslaught. It can destroy lives and it has.
Many people who troll others online, or who leave harsh comments, can likely be kind and sweet people in “real life”. These people would likely never publicly shout at someone in a room filled with 100 people. Yet, on social media, when you embarrass someone, you are doing it in front of thousands of even millions of people, and it is out there forever.
Can you give 3 or 4 reasons why social media tends to bring out the worst in people; why people are meaner online than they are in person?
- There appear to be few if any consequences, so people feel uninhibited.
- People are depersonalized online. People often don’t think of the person on the other end as a “real person” with “real feelings”.
- The norms online have allowed this and made this acceptable. In a room full of 100 people, unless you are at some sort of political debate unfortunately, there are norms around appropriateness of behavior and there are people there who will hold you accountable for that.
- I know you did not ask for a fourth, but people can hide who they are online. This is a real issue I have with a lot of social media platforms and is why we have enabled identity verification for people on our site. On most of these social platforms, people can pretend to be someone they are not, they can be anonymous, and they can be a fake person. Again, no consequences for actions and no fear of reciprocity.
If you had the power to influence thousands of people about how to best comment and interact online, what would you suggest to them? What are your “5 things we should each do to help make social media and the internet, a kinder and more tolerant place”? Can you give a story or an example for each?
- Treat others the way you would want to be treated.
- Only respond to people and comment if you are willing to share your name and be public.
- When you see people being attacked, combat the behavior by commenting on the inappropriateness of the people commenting.
- Don’t use sites that support this negativity. They often make money by you using the site. They will listen when people leave their site.
- Stay positive and if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything.
Freedom of speech prohibits censorship in the public square. Do you think that applies to social media? Do American citizens have a right to say whatever they want within the confines of a social media platform owned by a private enterprise?
Social media should feel a responsibility toward the culture it perpetrates and should use their power for good. In many ways big social media does a ton of good. And in some ways, not so much. I have listened closely to how their CEOs and executives typically talk about this. Candidly, most of these discussions seem to be leaders heavily briefed by their PR and communications teams and are focused on standard messaging that protects their companies and their current business models. Many of them and others are comfortable hiding behind the first amendment. Really what they are doing is justifying the community guidelines they have and the actions they do or do not take.
I do not believe people should have the right to say whatever they want to on social media, any more than you should be able to say whatever they want in their work environment, on campus if they are in college, or at public events sanctioned by governing bodies. The internet is in part a vehicle to communicate, and that vehicle can be constructive or destructive. If communications at work were governed similar to how most social media companies were governed, there would be pure chaos and little of the behavior would be tolerated. While social media companies cannot necessarily be held accountable for what people do off their sites, they create an environment for people to interact, and that interaction should have standards of reasonable behavior between people. People are communicating on THEIR platform, with THEIR technology and THEY are making money off of these people. You don’t restrict people’s ability to be productive by not allowing people to be hurtful.
It is of course much more of nuanced issue than this with a lot more to it, but at its core this is where I net out on it. This is also why we built ChekMarc the way we did.
If you had full control over Facebook or Twitter, which specific changes would you make to limit harmful or hurtful attacks?
I think it’s fairly simple. These companies should be applying standards of decency that are not applied today. It is not difficult for them to do because their business models and incentives are aligned to drive the most activity on their platforms, not to create the most humane experience. They fundamentally need to be willing to have smaller communities that operate with a level of appropriateness than larger communities that are able to do largely whatever they want to do. It’s ironic how big these companies are but how long they take to debate some fairly simple things. And then how proud they are when they finally make a big decision on removing a piece of content or a person or a group from their sites. The right answer is not difficult to see. They are just too busy trying to calculate the business impact of making those decisions. I have spent a good amount of time in and around big corporations so I understand how they got to where they are and how difficult it can be to manage through what appears to be easy to resolve issues.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I have a ton of quotes I live by but one of my favorite ones is “Perfection is the enemy of great.” Sometimes good enough is good enough when it comes to making progress on things and the cost of waiting for the perfect answer or the perfect solution is far greater than the cost of not progressing. Have applied this in businesses I have built and certainly feel it applies to progress on the topic we have been discussing. We need to start making more progress and not waiting for perfect solutions that are uniformly accepted and risk free.
We are blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
Tim Cook. His focus on privacy, sustainability and equality resonates with me. I find him aligned with my morals. He has been able to continue to build a great company and be a good person.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
On LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/marcekaplan
On Twitter @ChekMarcKaplan (just joined so I think I have 2 followers….maybe I can double that!)
Check out what we are up to and joining our community at www.chekmarc.com or download our App.
Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!