Social media provides each of us with a stage, a gallery, an audience and sometimes a bullhorn.
The latter occurrence is where I see some problems.
You may or may not have followed through, but my bet is that sometime in the last five-to-seven years of the social media revolution, something really ticked you off. You wanted to take this entity to task via social media.
Maybe it was poor customer service.
Perhaps it was an underdone steak.
Was it a company vehicle that cut you off in traffic?
I’ve been there. I’ve done it — sometimes more justified than others.
There’s a sickly satisfying catharsis in letting someone have it. The trouble is that we’ve forgotten that on the other end of the virtual town square of social media is a real person who is the victim of the tirade.
After I found myself an unwitting victim of some misplaced aggression, I learned a little empathy. There’s nothing like the Golden Rule to rattle your cage.
I now ask one question: did you try to make it right with the company/person/entity BEFORE blasting them on social media?
I fully believe that the power of social media is a fantastic place to hold businesses accountable. I believe that one should name names when they are mistreated — I actually believe it’s a social responsibility to warn others of charlatans, frauds and quacks.
However, if someone ticked you off and you’re too yellow to confront the problem in person, yet you want to make the complaint on social media, you’ve participated in a phenomenon I call Shoutrage.
Shoutrage is a lot like outrage. The only difference is you’d rather be heard complaining than actually make a difference.
A few weeks ago I wrote about how our ideas are devoid of value until they have been acted on — and even then they can sometimes be worthless. I think the same thing applies to our opinions and gripes and well-wishes for the world to be a better place. We can complain and we can be as upset as we want, but it will never affect change.
Why is this so common? I believe there are two reasons that seem paradoxical:
One, the anonymity of social media has desensitized us a bit. We’re willing to spit and cuss from the safety of a couch, behind the glare on a computer monitor. It’s much easier than telling someone his or her service is rotten or asking for a replacement quiche when you find a hair in it. It’s easier to bottle the rage and unleash it later.
Two, inside of each of us, there’s a driving desire for connection. Perhaps when we drop a bomb about an establishment, we’ll find others who agree with us. Maybe someone will back up our position. Sadly, this is often the case.
The trouble is that you alienate as many people as you gather to your cause.
I have some friends who have a house rule apropos to this conversation. They say you have two options: You can complain about something and then do something about it or you can quit complaining.
Shoutrage often begins with someone seeing a great problem or perceived injustice. The trouble is it’s all talk and no action. If you’ve been wronged, by all means, let the world know — just try to solve the problem first.
» Josh Mabus is president and CEO of The Mabus Agency