Sincerely, Your Screen

by Mycah Hulst

Society is digital (#duh), and social media is transforming the way we live. In our personal lives, we rely on a plethora of social media channels to help us start and maintain relationships, explore new companies, voice opinions or perspectives on relevant topics, etc. From the business side of the spectrum, we are able to target customers all around the globe. We can build awareness and generate enormous amounts of analytical data that will deliver insight on new markets.

That all sounds wonderful (and sometimes it is), but these technological “advancements” are affecting our lives in ways we may not have expected. For instance, many of us treat social media as a right, not a privilege, which means that we sometimes feel emboldened to act and speak to each other in ways that are often out of character and based on current emotions. In fact, I would argue that 9 times out of 10, we would not say half of what we express on social media to somebody in person or even on the phone. And, regardless of the specific reasons that we de-virtualize these interactions, social media has created an alternative world whose habitants demand a theatrical, emoji-ridden performance and thrive on conflict.

We’ve all heard, at some point in time, “what is put on the internet stays there”. As a result, many of us proceed with caution in terms of the pictures or content we post on our personal pages. However, many people rarely consider the words and responses they post on the public profiles of businesses. As a digital media enthusiast, I have worked behind the scenes on a wide variety of different social platforms (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, SnapChat, blogs) for different companies. Within each market, there are always unique features that diversify the experience, but one consistently remains the same: the interactions with customers and followers.

While there is always a handful of encouraging tweets, comments, and likes, you’d be blown away by what some people deem necessary and appropriate to post on a business page. To any emotionally distraught individual who needs an outlet for their frustration, the satisfaction they find within the rapid clicking of keys and pounding of the buttons makes this epidemic easy to start and spread around. A computer screen isn’t a human, so it’s easy to forget that there is always a human on each side of the screen. Cue unfiltered comments all over the digital space, and instant conflict between the person posting and the person whose job it is to deal with that post. Between daily swear words, crude jokes, and disheartening remarks, a social media administrator often considers treating herself to a box of chocolates. And although digital media strategists have big shoulders and get over this negativity pretty fast, the perceptions about those filter-less individuals on the other side of the screen never leave our minds. We begin building a long naughty and nice list that means nothing to the offender until they are blocked, declined services, or reported—and this isn’t fun or cool for anybody.

So to help you avoid this relationship-ending experience, let’s review some insights provided by your personal punching bag from behind the screen. These might be beneficial to consider next time you feel the need to make a “point” on social media:

  1. Those aggressive comments really don’t get you any further than they would in real life (which is probably why you are attempting to post them, rather than say them out loud).
  2. Understand that many social media platforms are the 21st Century version of PR and Customer Service. We are ALWAYS happy to help, but treat us like a human being, not some illiterate robot.
  3. If you are truly upset and would like to express that, send us a PM (personal message). This will make the experience beneficial and efficient for both parties. You won’t get lost in the multitude of posts and will most likely get a response ASAP (and we won’t have to go through the debate of whether or not to delete your comment on our page).
  4. Using all caps just makes you look like you have a broken keyboard.
  5. When you are drafting a post and your emotions are starting to resemble a hurricane, just wait 24 hours before you click send/tweet/post/share. You may have a new perspective after sleeping, having coffee, eating a good breakfast, etc.
  6. If you think your joke might be on the inappropriate side, put it through the “mom filter” before posting (if you think your mom would feel uncomfortable reading it, we probably will too).
  7. Even if you don’t tag us in a comment or place it on our page, we can still find it through other means. We have skill.

As I bring this blog to a close, I want to emphasize that I did not write it out of sensitivity to a specific situation or used as an opportunity to vent. I prepared it, rather, to remind all social media users (myself included) that there is always a person behind the screen. Social media is not your journal, so don’t think your comments will go unnoticed.