Social media no excuse for anti-social behavior*

*Or who the Tweet do you think you are?

I suppose this experience comes with the Internet territory & the ugly facelessness of anonymity. Or maybe its more about the desperate lust for attention of a Reality TV generation. Today, toxic expressions of displeasure are delivered digitally with a lack of sensitivity that could only be matched in person after a long night of hard drinking among relatives. My bet is that football coaches and sports editors are probably subject to the worst violations. 

Last week I witnessed something that on the surface was almost nothing, but somehow compelled me to speak up to say, enough (In fact, this is my first 'blog' posting ever). I felt like I was on a digital playground. All the digital kids in the Tweetstream stopped and watched to see what would happen after I called the digital Bully out for picking on a quiet, digitally-defenseless Small Business. This particular 'Bully' is a self-professed social media black-belt, with a personal slogan that smacks of a Stuart Smalley self-affirmation. And, perhaps with justifiable cause, the Bully called out a small, local business with which the Bully had a dissatisfying interaction. 

I probably should have kept out of it. I had no dog in this fight. However, my response (through Twitter) was that the Bully should have approached the owner of the business IRL to express displeasure, rather than sharing it with 4000+ loyal followers. With indignation, the Bully responded that it was fully in their right to say whatever they want via Twitter. Besides, the Bully is too busy and important to attend to such trivial matters in person. Further, the Bully fully intends to continue to toss off insults as they see fit. Surprisingly, this position was supported widely by a crowd of follower digital kids on the playground, all twittering the Bully's responsibility to express their opinion to as many followers as they can reach. 

It's long been an axiom in marketing that a satisfied customer tells 10 people and a dissatisfied customer tells 25. And I hope that IRL recommendations still carry greater weight than someone's opinion on Twitter between whom you have 3- or 4-degrees of separation. Sure, it's cathartic to go tilting at the windmills of a large, faceless, non-responsive organization like your bank, your insurance company, your gov't on Twitter. Go ahead, vent your frustration. It's not like anyone is listening, other than your 4000+ loyal followers. But it is entirely another thing to openly insult a small, local, independent, women-owned business. Isn't it? I thought that supporting such businesses was a good thing? At what point does one's right to digitally express one's opinion outweigh the 'doing the right thing' of supporting a small woman-owned local business?

Rather than continue the feud publicly on Twitter, I took it 'offline.' Here's the text of the email I sent to the Bully. The names have been disguised to protect, well, me. 

Bully -- I don't know you and I've got nothing against you. But I do understand the power and influence of social media. Obviously, you do, too. So you know full well that you can crush a little business with a few well-placed flicks of your lovely manicured fingers. Good for you. I'm sure that feeling of power is heady and rewarding, and you've earned that right through your adept network building skills and active posting. 

You could easily have publicly praised Good Restaurant, without trashing the small, digitally-defenseless restaurant (And who wouldn't? But Good Restaurant owner will be the first to tell you that they didn't always do a good job XX years ago when they first started that business). Or, you could have limited your statements to Yelp where people are looking for that information and have context for a review. But you didn't. You voiced your displeasure loud and clear for ALL of your followers to hear. And I don't dispute your right to do that to 1,000,000,000 followers if you wish.

But, before you do that the next time, go introduce yourself to Small Business owner, the quiet young woman that owns the Small Business, that grew up in the neighborhood, bought herself a small local business, improved it, created jobs, has helped launch other successful, small, women-owned entrepreneurial businesses (Small Business, too) and is raising her two young children with what she earns there. Tell her face-to-face about how you told literally thousands of people that they should avoid her business b/c you had a bad sandwich, or a bad day, or whatever. Then feel free to Tweet to your heart's content. 

Like I said, I've got no axe to grind w you or any stake in the Small Business, and this is the last you'll hear of it from me. I'm not trying to be an asshole. I'm just one small business person sticking up for another. 

Best regards, 

John Pribble III







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