Saturday, July 28, 2012

When Social Media becomes a Social Menace

From 1987 to 1996, if you tuned into our local small town radio station in the morning weekdays, you might catch the call in talk show called “Contact” hosted by a fellow named Grant Mitton. The premise of the program was fairly simple – Grant would generally speak for a few moments at the beginning of the show (maybe discussing something that was in the news or introducing a special guest) and then folks would call in and share their opinion.

Grant was a great host and seemed to effortlessly take on various roles: mediator, counselor, referee and sometimes even religious advisor. It could be very entertaining to listen to and more often than not, the same folks would call in day after day to claim their minutes of fame.

Talk radio WAS social media, albeit a much more controlled form.

·  The message was controlled
·  The time was controlled
·  The medium was controlled

This highly controlled environment was limited to an hour each day wherein the host could pull the plug at any time if things got out of hand. It rarely happened though….Grant was like an old friend, his voice was soothing….comforting and supportive. Rarely did he have to raise his voice, rarely did he need to pull the plug. It was a different time back then….people seemed less….angry? Frustrated?

Local folks loved that program. It gave them a voice in situations where they felt they did not have one, and for others (those regular callers), it seemed to give them a purpose. Mitton always opened with “I invite your calls….any subject under the sun”. The program debated the oil and gas industry, government, environmental name it! It even engaged the services of a psychic to come on the air to connect with callers. Highly entertaining! Nothing seemed off limits.

Fast forward 16 years….where the heck are we now?

We have Facebook.

We have Twitter.

Facebook and twitter have taken the place of call in radio programs and talk shows. Do you notice the decline in Phil Donahue/Oprah type talk shows? In a world of immediate connectivity, there is no need to tune in for an hour to listen to a radio/television program. We are treated badly by a retailer? We tweet about it. We have a concern about our local government? We start a conversation on facebook. We want to connect with a celebrity? We connect with them on Twitter….and they respond.

Unfortunately……these forums are rarely controlled – no one ever says enough is enough. There is seldom a moderator….no one to pull the one to protect folks from themselves.

Scott Stratten, best selling author of Unmarketing and someone with his thumb firmly on all things social media says, “Social Media is an amplifier”. It is true. As soon as you press send on that Facebook post or tweet… is gone and you can’t get it back. Oh sure….you can delete it, but rarely can you delete it before it has been copied, retweeted or shared.

Basically…you just shouted from the rooftops….spelling mistakes and all. Did you speak truth? Did you overshare? Did you get caught up in the Herd Mentality and comment or pass along something that you shouldn’t? Did you damage someone’s reputation? Did you damage YOUR reputation?

I am an advocate for social media…..I use it in many of its forms, but it has a very dark side: One that we are seeing rear its ugly head more and more often. It is almost like (for some) there is a pop up when they log onto Facebook that says, "Do you solemnly swear to irritate, antagonize, bitch, whine and complain, bully, and comment without any thought to how it will effect the universe?" Press YES to continue. 

Think about it....that last comment you pressed send…..but should you have pressed delete instead?

Here are some tips about using social media:

·  Never, ever tweet or use facebook while intoxicated (even if it is funny, the spelling mistakes are enough to make you look bad)
·  Avoid commenting on sites that may hurt your brand (you are what/where you post)
·  Don’t over-share! Divorce, break-ups, birthing photos……nope!
·  Do not engage with negative behaviour on facebook.
·  Don’t be a Troll 
·  Don’t be passive aggressive…if you have a problem with a business…start by telling them directly so that they can correct the problem.

The title of this article was “When Social Media becomes a Social Menace”.  It is up to you….you control your message; you control the response to the messages you receive.

It is your choice.


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