danniewriter

Is this really your outrage?

https://youtu.be/psmpWVuCb8s

I find myself deleting, blocking and unfollowing more and more on social media these days. I’ve only had a couple of upsetting social media interactions myself, but they have left me, more than anything else, exhausted—and more than a little despondent about so-called “civil” discourse in the 21st century.

A couple of these interactions involved very intelligent people who, I thought, would be persuaded that they might have jumped to conclusions about a situation because they hadn’t yet read the latest developments. I naively thought that fairly irrefutable and verifiable facts would make a difference. One person politely agreed to disagree, the second blew her stack.

I really sound holier than thou, so let me be clear: I’ve fallen prey to fake news (that is, “real” fake news and not just facts that fail to support my point of view) and have been guilty of rushing to judgment … and sharing that judgment on social media. And while I never enjoy eating crow, I’ve tasted it before and generally will accept it again when I need to. Just pass the ketchup.

There’s a mob mentality online that has developed largely from the efforts of hard-working trolls. Most effective deceptions start with the tiniest grain of truth. Exaggeration and outright manufacturing are piled on again and again until the lie is presented as reality.

The result is that we perceive that the gulfs that exist between cultures, political parties, religions, etc., are not just unwieldy, they are insurmountable.

Which is exactly what some people want.

Soon, the 2020 presidential election will be just a year away, so I thought it was a good time to revisit a great piece of informational animation from acttv. The source is unapologetically left leaning, however, the content of this video is extremely balanced.

Sometimes the most outrageous and offensive information is accurate, but often it is not. Like the proverbial half-full/half-empty glass, it is a matter of perception, but even more diabolical, motive. A healthy distrust, and willingness to do some fact-finding on your own before commenting or sharing, is seriously lacking in civil discourse today, especially on social media platforms where people can be anonymous. Don’t borrow someone else’s outrage. We’ve all got plenty of our own.

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Head butting, reconstructed

If you own or manage a business, it’s likely that one of the least-favorite aspects of your job is responding to customer complaints. And, if you are on social media, it’s possible that the headache turns into a migraine if a troll has latched onto you.

Business Unplugged’s Carol Roth compiled a great collection of advice from business and communications pros about how to handle complaints, and trolls, and how to tell the difference. Some tips mentioned often:

Don’t respond in an angry or defensive manner, especially if you are dealing with a troll instead of a legitimate customer. Trolls want conflict. Don’t feed them.

You may feel that a customer’s complaint is unfair or possibly even untrue. It is your job to listen and respond with professionalism. Provide them with a way to communicate with you directly about their complaint. Direct messaging via the platform (Facebook or Twitter, for example), is the best way to start.

When you respond with patience and restraint, your faithful customers and supporters will chime in with their stories of great experiences at your business.

Respond, even if you need to step away from the computer for a while first to cool down. The silence of not responding screams to current and potential customers, “I don’t care if you’re happy or not.”

You have no control over reviews and comments on other sites such as Yelp, but it’s possible for you to block a follower from your own Facebook or Twitter feed. Do this only as a last resort. If you are dealing with someone who simply wants to rant, and if you have made an effort to respond in a reasonable and professional way, you can control who can post on your feeds. Do it too often, however, and you get the same blowback as not responding at all.

Finally, try to keep a sense of humor about everything. It’s not always easy, but it’s possible it will keep your blood pressure in a healthy range. As an aside, it’s OK to approach complaints and haters with humor, too, but make sure you really have a gift for it first. It’s a tricky business to convey sarcasm online. Check out some pros who do it really well, Moon Pie and Wendy’s.

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Toxic Trolling Takes a Toll

Writing for Thrive Global, Gigi Falk recently shared a post filled with links to great articles about cyber bullying and the generally toxic online environment we have today. There are fascinating advances in technology working to pinpoint trolls and shut them down. Additionally, mental health experts are going on record that the uncontrolled rage exhibited in online discourse is resulting in symptoms of anxiety, depression, and other ills. (Go figure.)

It is easy to fall into the trap of passionately arguing a position without listening to those with whom we disagree, however, when that occurs, we are only making noise. If the point of our discourse is to persuade others to agree, or at the very least, understand, our point of view, it makes no sense to unload profanities, obscenities, insults, and other toxic rhetoric. What troubles me is that, for the worst of the trolls among us, there’s really no interest in persuasion. Having been given the capability of free and instant expression, the best that many of us can do is to use it as a weapon.

Falk’s post points out that, in addition to the technological advances in fighting cyber trolling, a group of German activists have developed a program, Zero Trollerance, to actually reform cyber bullies. Time will tell if the program has legs. If so, I hope it will be replicated on a global scale.

Illustration: Trolls don’t think very fast. This one has been caught by daylight and is now becoming a mountain. Lore tells us that most Norwegian mountains are made of trolls like this one. (Copyleft: This is a free work, you can copy, distribute, and modify it under the terms of the Free Art License http://artlibre.org/licence/lal/en/)

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