It’s Easier Being an Ostrich

It’s Easier Being an Ostrich

By: Shelly Kramer
September 11, 2009

I’ve gotten a bit of a rep in the social media world (Twitter in particular) of being an anti-Spam kind of gal. I’m usually opposed to affixing labels to people, but that’s one label that I’ll gladly cop to. Here’s the thing that I think bears saying. Being an ostrich about anything that’s unpleasant in life is the easy route, people. Stick your head in the sand the minute there’s anything even remotely untoward going on, and let the storm pass you by. Something to be proud of for sure – and definitely an attribute you’d want to pass on to your children.

Thanks, but no thanks. I’d rather my kids see me as a rabble rouser and someone who fights for what they think is right rather than a lame old ostrich – any day.

My great friend Diana Adams just wrote a fantastic piece on leadership and identified people whom she believes are leaders within the Twitterverse. Her post included quotes from all of them as to what leadership means to them. I was honored and flattered beyond words to be included with such an amazing group and the post itself got me to thinking on an even deeper level about leadership.

Here’s the thing. Sometimes people set out to be leaders and sometimes they just become leaders. But, in either case, with leadership comes responsibility. Responsibility to be honest and true – to yourself and to others. Responsibility to act like a leader and set an example to those who look up to you. Responsibility to your family, friends and those who love you to respect and honor them by way of your deeds and actions. And a responsibility to fight the good fight – to take a stand when a stand is needed, and to use your influence as a leader for the greater good. In my opinion, if a person just takes all the fun things about being a leader (e.g. celebrity, perks, adulation, attention, and the like) and never wrestles with any of the gnarly issues with which leaders are presented on a daily basis – are they really a leader? More importantly, are they really the kind of leader who deserves acclaim? And by the way, don’t mistake this part for me being all stuck up and thinking I’m some kind of a grand leader – I’m as ordinary as they come. I’m just trying to inspire thoughts on leadership in general here.

So, in my world, when you walk past litter, you pick it up and put it in the garbage where it belongs. And you teach your kids not to litter. When you see someone being a bully, you stand up to them – whether it’s in real life or in the social media realm – and you tell them to cut it out and go pick on someone their own size. And you teach your kids to respect others, not to be bullies. And, when you see someone broadcasting spam – whether it’s pornographic spam or selling spam, whether it’s in the “real” world or in the social media realm, you have an obligation, as a leader, to suck it up, take a stand, and call them out.

So there you have it. I’m no grand leader, but I do have a fair amount of influence in the social media realm and, for me, with that influence comes responsibility. It would be much easier, not to mention infinitely more fun, to just blithely ignore spammers and let them do their thing whilst I do mine. The thing is, that I kind of feel that with that influence I’ve developed, comes responsibility. Responsibility to reach out to newbies and lend a helping hand when I can. Responsibility to spread important messages whenever possible. And a responsibility to stand up and denounce losers who litter one of the worlds that I love with endless spam.

And a funny thing happened along the way – the more I made a practice of publicly calling out spammers, reporting them to Twitter and their @spam team, the less I see of them. And the fewer spam followers I find in my email inbox on a daily basis. Don’t worry, I’m not truly insane enough to believe that my small efforts have made some HUGE difference. But I am sincere when I say that those of you who have influence – in any social media realm – also have a responsibility to fight your own fights – whether it’s against spammers or something else about which you’re passionate. Don’t ever settle for being an ostrich – that’s just too boring for words.

  • Kevin

    Thank you for this. It made me look in the mirror at how I engage as a leader at work, a father, and a general citizen. Nice wake-up call.

  • Thanks Kevin. That’s the nicest compliment a gal could have 🙂

  • It is amazing to me the number of people who are ostriches 99% of the time and then someone will come up with something completely outrageous and all of a sudden these ostriches are vicious pitt bulls.

    People need to pay attention, they need to WANT to get more information. To use another animal metaphor; the people I am describing above are no better than sheep with a pit bull switch turned on by some sensationalist trying to get in the news. This perturbs me quite a bit, because just about every day I hear something either on the news, forwarded to me by my radicalized family members, or on Twitter about a group of people who believe in some new obviously false statement that some nut-job spouted out while they were high on Darvoset or their own ego.

    People need to open their eyes and their ears, but most importantly they need to open their minds to the possibility that just because someone is famous this does not make them “right” when they open their pie hole to make noises.

    To add to what you were saying about spam on Twitter: If you are at home and you hear a bunch of people rolling causing a ruckus in the street, you call the cops. If it’s in your inbox you call upon your junk mail filter, on your PC you call on the spyware and anti-virus software. If you are on Twitter and people are crapping all over your stream with their invitations for web hosting and “Get 500 followers a day” garbage, you should call the Twitter police, @spam.

    Thank you for sharing these thoughts, obviously I am with you 100% and I think that people need to stop being sheep and defend themselves and think for themselves.

  • Yet another reason – as if I needed one – that I adore you.

    And, of course, Matt, agree with you 100%. In my world, if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. And I also find that most people would rather ignore problems than put forth much, if any, effort toward solving them.

    You and me, we’re the crazy crusaders .. I couldn’t ask for a better wingman 🙂

  • Shelly, Great post on leadership and responsibility. Life would be easier if we didn’t stand up to what is wrong, annoying or threatening… or would it?
    Thanks for acknowledging your influence and using it for guiding and directing others in the right direction. Keep being your sassy, “that’s just wrong and I won’t stand for it!” self.

  • This is a very inspiring text. In my opinion there is a crucial phrase in it: “Sometimes people set out to be leaders and sometimes they just become leaders”

    People that set out to be leaders loose their own identity, because they are trying to become something that they want/wish to be. On the other hand, people that have strong beliefs and stand on their own two feet against something that they perceive as unfair, will usually gather an “unwanted” army behind them because they had the courage to take the first step.

    You, dear Shelly Kramer, know (probably better than anyone) my stance on Spam. “Our” #NoMercy operation says it all.

    But I think that our responsibility (and you are #CouldNotBeMoreRight right when you say that with leadership comes responsibility)is broader than that.

    I can only speak for myself: I joined Twitter 8 months ago and reached 2000 followers last night. For someone that is used to play in front of 10000+ audiences this should not be a problem, but it is. Apart from the friends, work relations that follow you there is an “army” of people that made their decision to follow you because of who you are:
    To stay true to that and treat each one of those followers with care is the greatest responsibility of all.

    Once again thank you for the inspiration. #WouldNotExpectAnythingLessFromYou
    x x

  • I wrote this post thinking of you the whole time, my friend. For me, you personify integrity and leadership and all things that people should aspire to.

    Staying true and treating people with respect and care – says it all.

    Now, will you please marry me? < #thenwecangfigureoutwhattodoaboutmyhusband>



  • #JustSendMeThePlaneTicketAlready 🙂

    Thank you for your comment on my comment.
    I feel honored and I can only say I am learning with the best: you!

  • Diana Adams

    Shelly, thank you for including me in this incredible post. I love the analogy of spammers are like litter – and you pick them up and put them in the trash. Love it! You’ve inspired me not to take such a passive role with that garbage, but to instead, take an active role in cleaning up our playground. Thank you very much!

  • Thanks Diana. You’re a doll to read and even sweeter to share your thoughts. And you’re right, let’s clear up the doggone playground 🙂

  • You and I are definitely cut from the same cloth! I love that you are not one to sit around and settle for what others claim to be the status quo – you create your own! In my experience, that is what defines a true leader anyway. So there you go – no wonder the title has been bestowed upon you. You deserve it and you wear it well! Thanks for the great post!

  • Thanks Brian! As I mentioned on Twitter yesterday, I consider it an honor to be cut from the same cloth as you, sweets. Pinky swear – no settling – ever!!!

  • Love this post.

    Every time I see you call out a spammer on Twitter, I smile and think, go Shelly. I’ve never received a spam DM, but I’m ready and armed.

    Your willingness to confront socially unacceptable, thoughtless or rude behavior has worked to forge a bond with someone who follows you—me. I now have an impression of you as authentic, fearless and yes, as a leader. It’s fascinating how my perception of you is entirely based on how you have dealt with spammers. It’s been a short time since I’ve been on Twitter and observed your tweets, but it has translated to a firm opinion about you, what you stand for and a bit about your character.

    Brands can be built in an instant it would appear. So, run for office. I’ll vote for you.

  • Oh honey, but you are such a doll. What a lovely compliment – and a terrific way to end my day. How was I so lucky as to have found you as a friend? Whatever the manner we’ve found one another, I consider myself the lucky one!! Oh, and I have waay too many skeletons in my closet to ever consider politics … hehe. Thanks again for reading, for commenting and, most importantly, for the gift of your friendship. That is the best gift of all.

  • Excellent post, Shelly. As you know from my Tweets, I’m not an ostrich. I want people to like me for me, not some persona I made up, so I put all of me out there. That includes fighting the good fights.

    I do know that the more you stick your neck out, the more likely it’s going to get chopped, but it’s worth it. I’d rather someone attack me to my face, instead of the part that’s sticking up when my head is in the sand.

    The strongest memories my son, David, who is now 24, has of me are of me defending him in schools and other places when he’d been disrespected or treated unfairly. His respect for me quadrupled when I told a Vice Principal, “You will NOT suspend David. He did the right thing and is willing to accept a punishment, but it won’t be something that reduces his school time.” The VP stared at me for at least 2 minutes, then said, “Okay, 2 Saturday schools.” Not a bad reduction from a one week suspension, and David learned to stand up for himself but still accept a reasonable price to be paid. Most parents submit to people they perceive as authority, and their children become ostriches, too.

    My advice to anyone who gets inspired to stop being an ostrich – fight your fights, but stay calm, respectful, and good humored. Nobody wins if you have a heart attack over stress, and you definitely lose if you lose your cool and make a fool of yourself.

  • Bravo, Chuck! I feel the same way. I have two grown daughters and they’ll be the first to admit that I have spent their lifetimes teaching them to never settle, and to never not stand up for their rights. I feel it’s the greatest gift I can pass along to them – to teach them to be good and ethical people, people who know their rights and who respect others, but who also know how important it is to stand up for yourself in this world of ours. As we both know, it is exponentially easier to go through life being an ostrich – and thankfully, neither of us were cut out for that life. I’m proud to stand up for what I believe in and equally as proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with others who also choose to stick their necks out – it is those of us who are brave enough to do that who might actually make a difference. Thanks, my friend, for sharing a piece of you with me – I’m damn glad to know ya.

  • You did it again, Shelley! Said what so many of us think, only pithier, and better.

    You know ME by NOW. The ostrich synapse in my brain somehow refuses to fire and shut me down, probably even when it should (LOL).

    I’m not the leader you are – and you’re right on the money to call yourself one, because you ARE someone looks to with respect (because you carry yourself with respect, and because you give respect) – but I DO draw a certain amount of (ahem) attention to myself.

    I try to be aware of that. And fight the GOOD fights, when I see them tumbleweeding across the Twitterverse. And all the other Verses I wander through.

    Just as you say: for my own girls, for everyone out there watching (cuz people DO watch), and for the kids who visit the web site I run for them.

    Actually, though, I feel sorry for the ostriches. Yes, it’s hard doing the right thing, but in the end? The truth, doing the right thing? It ends up being the easier thing, eventually.

    You tell one lie? You end up having to tell a hundred, to cover it up. Easier to tell the truth.

    You leave the litter? You only have a bigger mess later to clean up.

    My aunt Sally used to put it best: “If you don’t have time to do things RIGHT the first time, however will you find the time to do things all OVER again?”

    GREAT post, Shelley. This one’s bookmarked for sure.

    You rock out loud, Twitter Sister.

  • We shall proudly be NON ostriches together, my friend. Thanks for reading and for the kind words. Good fights aren’t fun to fight, but somebody’s gotta do it, right? And I can think of no one better than you – and no better wingman (wingwoman just doesn’t sound as cool). So, we resolve to do the dirty work, push up our sleeves, show our kids to take no crap and just do it right. Am humbled by your compliments and think just as highly of you, my literary lovin’ friend!

  • I can’t think of a better way to brand yourself 🙂 You’re killing two birds with one stone here Shelly.

    I wonder, will I have the same spam-reducing experience that you have, if I too start denouncing spammers publicly?

    Matière à réfléchir… 🙂

  • But of course you will have the same response – you’re just that kind of guy! Thx for the read 🙂

  • Shelly – wow, talk about serendipity. @VAinParadise and I were just talking this morning about the issue of calling the spammers out in public.

    Dawn was all for it and I told her I had been thinking about it but wasn’t really sure I should get involved with it. Now I am asking myself why I am reluctant to get involved…of course, I want Twitter to be a great community and I should do my part in making it so.

    I’m sending this post to her and I am committing to calling out Spammers on Twitter in the future.

    Michelle @mmangen

  • Hi Michelle,

    Thanks for the comment. It is always easier to let others do the dirty work – I know I’ve done that in the past. But in this particular milieu, it just seems like the right thing to do to fight back. Goodness knows I’m not looking for another thing to occupy my time, but this particular issue is dear to my heart.

    Thanks again for reading and, most importantly, just for thinking about the issue. That’s huge and in and of itself!

  • WOW Shelly, as Michelle pointed out we were just discussing the spammers this morning.

    I have to say the spam issue has really seemed to pick up during the past week and it has become most frustrating for many.

    Thanks for this post, I now know that my thoughts were right on track and that I must do my part as well.

  • Hi Dawn. I think the best way to think about it is that there is strength in numbers. So, if we all even just a little bit, surely it will make a difference!! My optimistic self simply can not think otherwise. Thanks for the read and for sharing your thoughts!

  • Shelly,

    I have been on a bit of an anti-twitter-spam crusade. I have no less than 4 anti-spam apps in place and I still manually block approximately 30-35 accounts a day. (Yes, I report then to @spam). Thank you for this post! I can’t wait to retweet it!


    P.S. I’m glad your spam is reducing. Mine is not. I would appreciate any suggestions you might have!!

  • adrian

    thank you – AND this also needs to be done with our SNAIL MAIL – when there is a return address or envelope i return everything back to the company . . . . .

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