Social media that inspires people and builds communities must be on guard not to fall into a Gotcha Social Media trap.
Social media can be a fantastic venue by which we can shed light on customer service problems quickly. However, it also runs the risk of thoughtless, tweet on the impulse rants that can go viral and don’t give people a first chance to fix mistakes without public humiliation or virtual lynching.
Two weeks ago, when I was angry about a horrid dressing room experience, I wrote a livid blog that roasted the company involved. Leveler heads than my own, especially that of my husband, told me to NOT post the company’s name but give them a chance to fix the problem. So I wrote my blog without mentioning the company, went through corporate channels, and watched to see what would happen. And I chomped at the bit, wanting to do more.
Through my blog, awareness of dressing room safety was raised. The company involved sent national representatives into the store with the problem and fixed them. If the solution works, they will broaden what they have tried here and expand it nationally.
Bottom line? A problem was addressed and fixed without my publicly crucifying the company and turning loose a virtual lynch mob where every socially conscious social media expert jumps on the bandwagon, retweets and shares the incident so we can “make” the company fix it.
So now corporate America knows the effects of gotcha social media. We who are on social media must guard ourselves and our keyboards so we don’t devolve into a Jerry Springer studio audience lynch mob where we yell “fight! fight! fight!” whenever there is an injustice in this world. Sometimes, it’s ok to keep our social powder dry until we determine whether or not we really need to use it.
As the mother of teenagers, I have another worry about gotcha social media. In the past week, we’ve seen what happened when a teen-aged cashier put something racist, offensive, and inappropriate on a restaurant receipt. It went viral, went global, the teen got fired, and the restaurant went into major damage control.
As the mom of 2 teenagers and the friend of others, I worry about what happens to a teen who makes a stupid mistake and does the wrong thing. I’m an adult and I still do wrong, stupid things sometimes. Instead of crucifying the kid who does something wrong, would it sometimes not be more constructive to make it a teachable moment and give a second chance?
It’s easy as someone who can instantly communicate with thousands of people with a single tweet, Facebook status, blog, or pin on a corkboard to air what is wrong with our world. In the process we might just wreck a life and dismiss it as collateral damage, done as a testament to our new power with social media.
But I wonder – should we find a way to think twice and try to work within the system and work to preserve the dignity of those involved, including those who wronged us, before we rant in front of the whole planet?
Would it hurt us to work a little harder to err on the side of mercy? Isn’t that what the song “Give Peace a Chance” was supposed to mean?