Social media and the rumour mill

First published Friday, August 1, 2014

As part of my work today I visited one of the businesses who hold membership with the organisation I work for. Various items were on the agenda, one in particular generating some heartfelt comments from the team operating the business, frustration being quite evident, along with some anger too.

Social media allows many positive interactions, and equally allows negative comments, rumours and blatant lies to spread like the proverbial wild fire. As with gossip that spreads in a neighbourhood, it is frequently the less positive messages that spread first through social media, going viral within in hours of original publication and making the task of tracing the original source that much harder.

There is some legal action that can be taken of course, although the speed and effectiveness of such action when dealing with the vast expanse and reach of social media platforms and the broader internet can be frustratingly slow by comparison. Nonetheless there are increasing numbers of prosecutions being made on the basis of comments made on social media sites, a clear indication that libel is libel wherever it occurs.

The ‘keyboard warrior’ who posts derogatory comment or spreads false rumour may well have their reasons for doing so, and when able to do so from the ‘anonymous’ perspective afforded by social media (false account names etc) may feel that they aren’t necessarily doing any harm. There are others who possibly deliberately set out to cause damage through their posts although whether they fully appreciate the implications of such action I don’t know.

Regardless of what is posted, or why, when someone or a group of people are making comments about a company they perhaps don’t consider the individuals behind that, the folks who are working hard to deliver a good quality product or service, who take pride in what they do, and take negative comments personally, and get upset and angry as a result of lies and malicious rumours. That said however, a bully often has little regard for the feelings of their victim, so perhaps it is the same in this sense.

What did make an impression for me today though were the following:

For reasons I don’t understand, some people really do seem to take pleasure from causing pain and distress for others, yet in a cowardly fashion by spreading rumours and lies and making up stories and artificial complaints rather than being adult about it and making direct contact with a business and discussing their grievances face to face;

Social media can be a great force for good, but equally be utilised in an extremely negative and damaging fashion;

Being able to talk about an issue and discuss options on how best to approach a challenge and overcome it is important and effective particularly when the discussion is honest and open.

I hope that following on from today’s meeting some positive  results will be seen, and quickly. Having seen first hand how hard this particular team work, and what they have achieved in the last couple of years, I could see how upset they were by the comments and rumours, and appreciate their distress.

As a thought to mull over this weekend, when you next post a comment or share something on a social media platform, consider whether it is going to have a negative impact on someone else, and how that might feel for them. Does upsetting someone else really make you feel better? If you have a grievance with someone, or the product or service you have received, have you taken positive action to try and resolve that directly? If not, perhaps it is worth trying that before letting rip on your Facebook or Twitter feeds. You may be pleasantly surprised by how effective dealing with something in person can be!

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One thought on “Social media and the rumour mill

  1. I feel very strongly about so called key board warriors and the damage they cano, it not only applies to businesses,olive, fire, hospital, schools, local authority (current “corruption” petition. The balance is freedom of speech and the fact hat at times there will be times when truly awful service is given. Criticism is oft doled out at times of high emotion and without consideration, in the case of a business, particularly a sme the owner is the business is he person to blame for all that is wrong.

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