Posted on : 31-07-2012 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Business, Inspirational, Social Media
For those of us who have participated in social media for years, we have grown to respect how the space can drive change. In fact, if you are like me, you love it. Ordinary citizens have the power to drive change in government, or in some of the biggest institutions on the planet. As a Customer Service person, I love how it is changing the status of Customer Service within organizations. As an observer of the phenomenon I know the world is changing, and I hope it is all for the better. At the same time I have been watching conversations via social media becoming more snarky and personal attacks seem to be growing. I do not think most people do this, but what has occurred is we attract people with many of our same ideals which further validate our position. Then when others question this position we go on the attack. Often times social media is referred to as a cocktail party, but when would you call someone an idiot or worse things, while at a cocktail party? Okay some of you might, but I think most of us would be more respectful of their views, and often be open to listening.
There are numerous examples of the negativity in action, including hot topics like #NBCFail, Olympics, Penn State, Chick-Fil-a, the Presidential election, Health Care legislation, and the list goes on. I have seen so many posts on each of these topics that start with ‘If you do not agree with…you are…” What happened to having a dialogue? That is what social media is really about. One of my favorite topics to follow involved a young girl named Cathryn Sloan. There were numerous posts that called her numerous things, all because she expressed a view. For those who may not have heard of Catheryn, she is an aspiring writer trying to make a difference, not that different to many of us when we were 25. She recently did a post on NextGen Journal titled ”Every Social Media Manager Should Be Under 25.” Needless to say this put many social media managers on edge to tell her how she knows nothing. Were we fully listening to her? Did we create an environment that would allow for a thoughtful discussion? I am not sure we did. It was very personal and the attacks were piling on. But why? People viewed her post was an attack on them. We talk often how important it is to listen via social but I am not sure we are always doing that. I took the time to read other posts by Cathryn and I found a theme. Like many in the Occupy Wall Street camp, as well as others in her age group, she has been frustrated by the lack of jobs. This is an important topic, that I think if we had an open dialogue we could help solve. This too can be the power of social media.
As a person who started using social media for business with websites like Comcast Must Die, I recognize why many business leaders tend to see social media as the “snarky web.” I also have a few favorite websites like the Consumerist who have made a name for themselves by sharing some very negative conversations about business. Although they do post positive stories as well the Consumerist is probably most recognized for their annual tournament to win the Golden Poo award. I also know the abuse that happens via social media, usually directed at businesses, but sometimes it does get directed to individuals. It has happened to me on multiple occasions, as I am sure it has to many of you that are active in the space. Sometimes it can be downright hurtful. For those of us with a Customer Service background, we know that it happens all the time through all communications means. I am sure I have been unintentionally guilty of it too, but I also know that I can strive to make a small difference, just as each of you can.
This idea has been on my mind for a number of weeks, but as I was reading up on the latest news, including many discussions on the Olympics. One of the hot topics has been about Tom Daley, the British Olympic Swimmer. There were hopes that Tom would bring home the gold but he came in fourth place. I am sure many people rallied around him, but there was at least one who went a very different, unacceptable direction. First this person tweeted how Tom let down his father. Tom relayed the tweet with a message that his father passed away. There were a few other tweets culminating with ”i’m going to find you and i’m going to drown you in the pool you cocky tw*t your a nobody people like you make me sick.” You can read more of the incident here. Having dealt with similar offline, I am happy the police are looking into it, and I hope the person receives any assistance they require. I then started to read people who were upset that the police were involved because it was just a tweet. When did that get to be acceptable?
We used to think the best was ahead of us, but due to the economy, negativity from politicians (in my view this is from all sides of the political spectrum), and other shifts within society (including social media), many of us have lost that belief. It is time we as a society start bringing that back and it starts with us. I think we can easily do that by starting with a day to recognize the positive things in our life, even things companies are doing well and others around us. I picked August 14, 6 months after Valentine’s day. I like the #positivelysocial hashtag recommended by Cari Sultanik but if you have other ideas for naming it, please include that in the comments.
If you like the idea, please help me spread the word to others. Driving change by recognizing the positive can help send a message and have just as strong an influence as the negative. I think it is time for us to lead this!