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Stopping Jerry Springer Syndrome in Social Media | Mary Biever | One Writing Mother

Stopping Jerry Springer Syndrome in Social Media

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. ┬áIn 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?

4 Responses to “Stopping Jerry Springer Syndrome in Social Media”

  1. Josh Humble January 14, 2012 at 7:17 pm #

    Thanks for raising awareness of this, Mary. I’d say this issue is mutli-pronged. First, quality service and products have been replaced by a quantity over quality mantra, and there’s a general disregard for serving customers well in this “everything now” culture. This is a contributing factor to our intolerance for more bad service. Too many companies need to do a better job, and that’s hard to do with the quantity over quality process everyone is sucked into. Abide by it or die, unless you create your own custom niche market.

    While in a hurry, I recently waited patiently in line at a gas station, while a young, very loud and poorly spoken young lady yelled on her cell phone at a friend, while barely transacting gas and snacks for customers in between. She barely spoke to customers while taking their money, and her grunts nearly matched the decibels of her useless phone rant.

    However, the mindset of customers has declined over the years, and the Jerry Springer response is now highly rewarded. Too many are encouraged to speak their mind on ANYTHING, at anytime. Experienced professionals from PR, media, legal, and a host of other venues know the dangers and inappropriateness of this.

    I like The US Navy’s approach with their SM policy, “Loose Tweets Sink Fleets.” This goes for both brands AND their patrons. There’s a time in the process to tweet our bad experience with a brand, but being mindful (and respectful) is critical to stay out of the woods. Think before we tweet.

    • Josh Humble January 14, 2012 at 7:56 pm #

      Regarding my gas station experience, I should add I wanted to immediately tell the world, not out of anger, but to let the gas station know what social media can do with bad customer service, and why an employee who behaves like this shouldn’t be hired. I reserved my thoughts, as this has just happened, and I’ll contact the company instead. If nothing is resolved at the top, it might then be time for SM action.

  2. maryb January 15, 2012 at 12:08 am #

    Josh, I agree if companies are non-responsive then we call them out publicly. My concern is more that we are increasingly doing a knee-jerk reaction and should think for a moment and think through what approach will achieve the desired solution while keeping us on the highest road possible.

    • Josh Humble January 16, 2012 at 11:15 am #

      I definitely agree, Mary. Social Media is a communications tool, and just like a knife, rope, or hammer – when used with skill – one’s tool can yield excellent results. Used poorly, without skill or strategy, the results can be ineffective or disastrous.

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