Billions of pounds have been spent to allow people to converse and communicate freely with each other, to share ideas and challenge concepts, to share thoughts and to learn, to create hope, generate support and nurture a space where everyone can have a voice.
What an incredibly positive and powerful movement.
Well yes, in theory, however in practice the irony is that it has become a growing beast and is being used for anything other than what it was intended*.
Hiding behind a screen
Social media is now a default position that gives anyone the ‘right’ to hide behind a screen and moan, bitch, shame, stir nastiness and share hatred. It is used to reach the masses with fake news and boastful claims and make others feel inferior at best and suicidal at worst.
Many will argue that this isn’t the case and that there is a lot of good that has come from social media tools. In part, I agree, but when reading the papers over recent weeks the truth is there in black and white.
Two recent headlines from the i newspaper as an example: “Depression and social media risk doubled in girls” and “Black Mirror star quits social media”.
The first refers to a study, which has found that teenage girls are twice as likely to shows signs of depression linked to social media than boys. The University College London has looked at the association between social and depression and the results are far from surprising.
The second headline quotes an actor, Will Poulter, who says: “In light of my recent experience I am choosing to take a step back, of sorts, from Twitter. I accept all criticisms and it’s been a delight to learn that so many of you enjoyed what many people worked very hard to produce. As we all know there is a balance to be struck in our engagements with social media.” He has been referred to as ugly by ‘trolls’ on the platform.
Let’s just take a step back.
Two articles which announce that young people are commonly experiencing signs of depression due to their use (and the misuse by their peers) of social media and a successful actor who can no longer watch in silence as he is torn to pieces by people who have no greater right to comment on this person’s appearance as he does on theirs.
When did this become ok? When was this headline hitting news? And, most importantly, when are we going to start to encourage the use of social media platforms for what they were intended – not to rant and rave in order to have a knowingly negative impact, but to share positive news and to become a platform to communicate for the right reasons.
Bringing it back to business
It would be unfair to ignore the fact that social media channels including Twitter, Facebook and Instagram have provided brands with a platform to promote their products to a global audience and that increasingly intelligent algorithms allow for more specific targeting than has ever been possible.
The questions is the same however, at what cost?
Irrelevant of the budget, thought, creativity and man-hours that go into social campaigns it would appear that increasingly they are coming under the same scrutiny as any social engagement with people feeling that their negative and nasty comments should be shared and somewhat bizarrely responded to.
What many people that work outside of marketing may not appreciate is that it still takes people to respond to social media posts and they, like those complaining or sharing their ‘constructive thoughts’, have feelings.
I have seen some appalling examples of people who think that because they are hidden behind a computer screen can make the most terrible comments and expect a response within minutes.
Firstly, no brand – whatever the size – has a legal obligation to get back to a consumer because they feel they are worthy of that engagement. Secondly, if you are that kind of person, think about how you phrase a complaint and then consider how you would respond given the chance.
I have said this before and I will say it again, if you are posting to a social media channel for whatever reason, if you wouldn’t walk into the street and make those comments out loud then think twice and even three times before posting them.
You do not have the right to be rude
Social media does not give anyone the right to be rude.
For those who go on thinking its ok and that to be outwardly aggressive to the people on the other side of that Twitter, Instagram feed or Facebook account, I urge you to think about how you will feel when your child, partner, friend or family member comes home in tears from school, college or work.
Remember, if your behaviour is reflective of a bully – even when targeted at a brand – you are no better than the people that are directing the same hate filled bilge to your loved ones.
*We know that there was a commercial rationale for all of these platforms and they were not based on a philanthropic endeavour to allow freedom of speech or communication across the globe. But for the purpose of this blog, let’s just assume that was the case.