On the one hand, it's an amazing tool of communication, both personally and professionally. I moved far from my family in northern Vermont, and Facebook allows me to keep in touch with them and peak into their everyday lives on a daily basis. I keep touch with my far flung friends that way, too. And since I quit my former profession to pursue my entrepreneurial dream, Facebook helps me keep in touch with my former colleagues, at the least the ones I like.
Last week, however, I experienced the dark side of social media. (Note: there are undoubtedly much darker sides than this one, but this was dark enough for me. It forced me to truly evaluate who gets to be a “friend”).
Tenant drama – with an unexpected social media twist
Last week I blogged about my latest tenant drama – the millennial couple who moved out with no notice because their lease was up: http://thisgingerjustsnapped.weebly.com/blog/text-from-a-tenant-file-under-security-deposit-issues
Our leases have an automatic renewal clause, and they also require sixty days written notice before any move out for return of security deposit. These tenants moved out, left a flea infestation behind, and still wanted their security deposit back. At first I ignored their repeated texts (millennials communicate mostly via text) because it seemed a pointless waste of my time to engage them. It's also in my lease, and in PA law, that the landlord has thirty days from the date of move-out to snail mail the security deposit and/or a statement detailing the expenses it was used to cover. They'll get their bad news by the end of the month. But the texts kept coming. The last one was to the effect, “I don't mean to nag but we really need our security back so we can pay for our new place.”
I got this text the morning I was to go to the lake for our little family's annual overnight camp-out on the sailboat. It's no big yacht – just a little 19-footer we picked up for a couple grand a few years ago as a means of making fun childhood memories for Savannah.
I thought I was being smart. We use Grasshopper for our business phone service – the calls and texts come to an app on our smartphones. I first checked to see if Grasshopper had a number blocking feature – it did. Then I texted our ex-tenants and told them they would not be getting their security back, in fact they'd be getting a bill for the fleas. I waited, got the expected response (There's no way our dog left you those fleas/we didn't have to give notice because our lease was up/you'd better do the right thing and give us all our money back now or we'll see you in court/blah blah blah blah blah) and promptly blocked their number. Then I packed up and headed to the lake.
We were walking around the vendor stalls at Harvey's Lake Fest that afternoon when my Facebook Messenger went off with a ding. It was Cheryl, the owner of Savannah's first daycare. Nice lady. Wonder what she wanted?
I clicked on the circle and was violated.
Cheryl was the aunt of one of the tenants, and how dare I treat her niece this way! She had already spoken to the family lawyer – they happened to have a CPR class together this morning. So I'd better do the right thing and pay them in full or she'll see me in court.
I replied with a carefully worded response – her niece had moved out with zero notice. Her security deposit would cover my lost income for August, but it would not cover the cost of exterminating the fleas her dog left behind. Cheryl replied back that the fleas could not possibly have come from their dog (I guess they just magically appeared the day after the tenant moved out then) and did not back down on her stance that she and her family friend lawyer would crush me in a court of law. I replied back that her niece's text had ruined my entire week beginning Monday at 7:25am, this Facebook communication was marring precious weekend family time, and that she was not to contact me about this matter again.
Well, mission accomplished. My privacy had been violated – they got to me and disturbed the time I had set aside for Steve and Savannah. They put a dark cloud over my mood. They aroused primal fears – this is a small town. I am an outsider here. I should go back to where I came from, abandon my plans. Bullshit thinking, I know. And the same thoughts that invaded my brain space during the fight against Wilkes-Barre's One Strike law. The fight that inspired me to start writing this blog in the first place because I just didn't know what else to do with my raging thoughts: http://thisgingerjustsnapped.weebly.com/blog/why-this-ginger-snapped
I busied myself building a sandcastle city with Savannah. I let myself be drawn into her little world.
Then it made me really mad! When we moved Savannah from daycare to Pre-K, didn't we have to give Cheryl two weeks' notice so she could fill her spot and not lose income? Funny she didn't feel I was owed the same courtesy. She had that in writing, just like I had in my lease, but I would have done it out of common courtesy even if she hadn't! So F her and her entitled relatives!
That night at our annual dinner out at Fishtales on the lake, while Savannah shot pool with Daddy, I sipped Pinot Grigio and deleted Cheryl and a whole bunch of other people I didn't really know off my Facebook. I was a madwoman – who are these people?! I got the list whittled down to 322 friends. Now, I don't really know 322 people, so I think some more trimming is in order, but that's enough for now. I am reasonably sure those remaining 322 people won't use their connection to “get to me” when I don't want to be got to. I at least know them well enough to be fairly certain of that.
Less people will see my blog this week, since I publish on Facebook. But I publish other places, too. Perhaps in the future I will have a Ginger Snapped Facebook account. Please don't be offended if you send me a personal Facebook friend request and I don't accept you. Perhaps we'll meet at one of the Investors Network NEPA meetings: https://www.meetup.com/IN-NEPA-Investors-in-Northeastern-PA-Real-Estate-Meetup/ ...and become friends there. In Real Life.
Facebook and other social media have their place as valuable tools of business communication. There are Facebook groups just for landlords, others for real estate investors, agents and sellers. I put a call out recently for someone reliable to mow the lawns at the rental properties and was overwhelmed by qualified responses. Facebook advertising is quickly becoming a cost-effective way to market real estate for sale and for rent. Being over 40 this is brand-new territory for me. Getting a handle on our social media marketing is quickly becoming a business priority. All of it – our rental business, our construction business, Steve's real estate sales activity, my Ginger Snapped persona – needs an online and interactive social media presence. This isn't something I'm going to rush into. It needs to be effective and easy for me at age 40+ to understand and maintain.
And most importantly, in this world of blurred lines, it has to keep the personal private.