Behaviors around my local dog park remind me of associations and social media:
1. It's new to someone. Dog parks are not a new thing, until it's new to you or new to someone else. Find out how it works. One woman tried to claim an entire caged area for just her and her dog, like signing out a racquetball court. Associations and members constantly arrive into social media and can't quite figure out what it means or how it works. There's a lot to learn. You're going to be surrounded by people who need to learn - no matter how long social media has been around and no matter how many already use it.
2. If your social temperament is bad, consider the impact. A dog park is a great place to teach socialization, the same way social media can teach socialization. But gee, you bring a dog with a negative temperament into the mix and it actually creates a negative environment that feeds more negativity among the other dogs.
What I believe creates the biggest turn-off for many considering adopting social media: they just don't like it when they get there, so they stay away. People have enough conflict in their own associations and in their own businesses without needing more sources for conflict.
Last year someone posted a lengthy rant about an association conference; and stated it was in the spirit of caring. That's the same as the owner of the boxer with the bared teeth lunging and growling at my terrier saying, "he really loves other dogs, this is how he expresses it." OK, it's sure not what it looks like it. Intention doesn't trump perception. Those in dog parks and social media need to be mindful that there are playful ways to play and bared teeth/growling ways to play. Start barking and watch the other dogs bark. What if the ones you want to listen can't stand the growling so they will never interact with you?
3. People don't read. What's that 75 pound dog doing in the small dog section? The owner didn't read. Even with one sign directly in front of someone in big letters it's still possible to miss it. With the enormous volume of words in social media a fraction of what any of us put out there is going to actually make it to our audience. If someone has 2,000 friends on Facebook or Twitter the chances they'll see your update actually depends on things as random as if they just happened to tune in around the time you posted it or if they are experienced enough to know how to filter to include you. Where associations were once able to be expressed in media that was exclusively ours (magazines, etc.) - now we're a sentence (status and/or tweet) competing to be read among thousands of other sentences.
4. If you have a problem, address it directly with the owner or make a call. When there's a nuisance dog, the first step is not to take a picture of the dog, the owner, drive home and then call out the owner by name on a blog detailing everything. The dog park sign says it right: if you have a problem, the first step is to talk directly to your "offender" or call the place where it can get corrected. Somewhere along the path in social media people start to consider skipping the steps of professional and personal courtesies. A legend in the association world once said, "just because you can doesn't mean you should."
5. Enter and play at your own risk. Do you increase the opportunity for a legal problem or attack by entering the park - or by doing social media? Absolutely. If I drop my 14 pound terrier in front of a Pit Bull is there more risk than just playing safely in the living room? You absolutely, positively cannot shield yourself or your association to the damage others can cause because you're in the space or anytime you post anything. Does the park give him enriched interactions and relationships - absolutely. You can play wisely - but don't enter without knowing that there is inherently more to watch out for.
6. Keep it clean.
7. Just one more type of community. What brings the entire dog park community together is we love our dogs. They may be 12 year old beagles, 4 month old German Shepards, rescue dogs, pure breeds, scared or hyper ... but they've been brought together to experience together. Social media is one more type of community; while dogs instinctively know how to say hello, we might need to be trained.