A recent article by Penny Anderson on The Guardian titled, “A Message to the Mob: Behave on Social Media as you Would in Real Life ,” was a behind the scenes look at her experience when the masses disagreed with an article she wrote that had the keyboard warriors out in full force.
In her article, Anderson explains her research about and subsequent experience with the mob that disagrees with her and cuts her down with ruthless abandon. She speaks at length about how, “[o]nline connections permit behaviour previously deemed reprehensible to become acceptable, as those with similar deplorable interests find each other online and encourage each other”. She reminds us that there is a person behind the screen, “isolated” by the “spiteful abuse” slung her way.
We find it sad that a reminder such as this is required. Keyboard warriors, or trolls, are all too common these days. It is easy to be brave when you’re behind the safety of full or complete anonymity, emboldened by the knowledge that you’re likely to never meet your target face-to-face. For some, they find this enough encouragement to tear into people and say the most hurtful things.
As social media managers we all too often come across malicious comments such as these, and we continue to be shocked at what strangers can say to one another on any number of forums, whether it is through comments on a social media post, a reddit thread, or comments on blog posts and news articles.
We can’t stress this point enough, as Anderson said in her article: behave on social media as you would in real life. While that outburst may relieve your frustrations or feel completely warranted at the time, there is a person behind the focus of your wrath. Perhaps they just have a difference of opinion, maybe they didn’t intend the message the way you interpreted it. Maybe you’re reading between the lines and finding a message that was never there.
Aside from the mortifying emotional affect this type of behaviour can have, you never know who is looking at those comments. It is proven that law enforcement, government agencies such as customs or border patrol, security agencies, insurance agencies, and employers are increasingly using social media and other digital information to research people they encounter. What would your boss say if he found out about your behaviour online? How would that affect the reputation of your company? It could result in job loss, it could result in being passed over for a new position, or not landing the interview with that company you’ve been eyeing up. What if border patrol learned about the threats of violence you posted to a reporter you disagreed with? Is that hurtful comment worth the potential consequences?
Globalization is a result of the world wide web, and opens online activity up to attacks spun from any angle. Globalization, as defined by Anthony Giddens in The Consequences of Modernity, as “the intensification of worldwide social relations which link distant localities in such a way that local happenings are shaped by events occurring many miles away and vice versa.”
Giddens’ definition helps us see the reach these comments can achieve. Online it is not just the people directly around you that you reach with your message, it has the potential to be shared and viewed all over the world. Any reaction you may have gotten in a room full of people is magnified, and the adage ‘you’ll never please everyone’ is never more applicable. It is sad that controversial topics or not, sharing things online means you should be prepared for the onslaught of trolls to flock to your message and tell you what they really think. The larger your following the better the chances are of attracting unwanted attention.
The Conversation ran experiments in 2017 that showed that not all trolls are malicious people set on destroying peoples’ morale, but rather they were a product of the situation or the social cues they encountered. While this may be the case, didn’t their moms ever teach them that if all their friends were jumping off the bridge they should be smart enough to know it’s a bad idea and not do it just because everyone else is?
Social media and online forums allow us to learn from each other, hear alternative opinions, discover trains of thought we never thought of. Disagree, discuss why you disagree, educate even, but do so in a manner you are not ashamed of anyone else finding.
At MKT Communications we offer Social Media Management, where we monitor your social media accounts to watch out for people who are just there to pick a fight through the comments, or to answer questions, respond and engage to help keep your audience and customers from feeling the need to attack you on social media. Email us today for more information.