This is the story of Kelly Blazek and Diana Mekota. Kelly is the proprietor of an on-line job site in Cleveland. Diana is a job seeker. Together they are an object lesson in electronic social interaction.
Marshall McLuhan died four years before Mark Zuckerberg was born. But he was on to something when he told us "the medium is the message." We can only wonder if he saw how his ideas about the interaction of what we say and the tools we use to say it would so literally and universally come to pass. He probably did. He seems like a pretty smart guy.
The quick back story: Blazek, who runs the on-line Cleveland Job Bank (and was named Cleveland's "Communicator of the Year"), got an invitation from young job seeker Diana Mekota to connect with her on the business world's Facebook, LinkedIn. She was not pleased.
She could have politely told the young job seeker that she could not accept her kind invitation because she had to protect a list of contacts she had crafted over a number of years. Instead Blazek lit into her with a digital vengeance. Calling Mekota: "bush league" ... "tacky" ..."entitled" ... "assumptive" ... and (had this been a phone call) slammed down the receiver, instructing "no more questions or requests."
For the record, Mekota says she thought LinkedIn would be the easiest way to share her background. Probably not a good move for job applications in general. She turned Blazek's means of verbal assault back on her - posting Blazek's blast and her own polite reply. It spread like digital wildfire.
One of three things happened here.
One: Blazek is not the most pleasant individual - and another has come forward with a similar experience indicating that might well be the case.
Two: She was having a really horrible day, and Mekota took the brunt of it.
Three: a co-conspirator with one and two, she was not up on her McLuhan. The social firewall that digital creates seduced her into saying things she would never say in person or even over the phone - telemarketers being the obvious exception. Those, I like to yell at.
There is an argument that the Internet makes us smarter, makes us faster, makes us more connected; it also appears to be making us meaner; especially in the warren of social media.
A recent study found that 80 percent of people surveyed see an increase in rudeness on social media sites, and one in five have cut back contact with someone because of an on-line tiff. And online bullying, of course, takes mean to a whole different universe of mean.
If you want to self-test this, just go on to any blog and state a strong opinion (something about Obama will work). Sit back and get a lesson in the demise of enlightened discourse.
Perhaps, in this digital age, some useful advice from our mothers: if you don't have something nice to say to somebody, don't say anything at all. Or at least don't put it in an e-mail.
Follow Dr. Peggy Drexler on Twitter: www.twitter.com/drpeggydrexler