The Dark Side of Social Media
I make my living with social media and digital marketing and can chat all day about how it connects people and businesses in positive ways. I, like most people, re-connected with old friends that I might never have heard from again. I use social media to find information, stay up to date, and to find entertainment (I'm looking at you Buzzfeed). I help businesses represent themselves in positive and innovative ways and build brand trust and loyalty. All of these facets of social media are rewarding and engaging.
In the last week or so, I have seen a video pop up in my Newsfeed several times. I watched the whole thing twice - a rarity in today's bite-sized content posts and short attention spans.
The young woman is a YouTube makeup artist that posts videos on different makeup techniques and looks, with a focus on covering up her acne. The video talks about the hateful, disgusting, obnoxious, and perverse comments she receives on her social media accounts - both because of her acne and after her finished makeup looks.
It made me sad, striking my empathy chords and making me teary. I thought of my toddler daughter and how she would feel if that was her.
But I was in no way surprised. In fact, these types of comments are so invasive and normal, it almost sunk back into my subconscious before I thought, "Nope, nope, nope. I have something to say."
My tenure as the Social Media Manager for Megadeth started by volunteering to help moderate the band's Facebook page. At the time, the page had around 6.5 million fans, and moderating for spam was the least time-consuming issue. The sheer volume of "fans" and straight-up trolls constantly spewing hate and discontent was overwhelming and enormous. The comments ranged from hating on the music and the tired-ass Metallica vs. Megadeth debate, to horribly insulting slurs about and to Dave and sometimes his family.
Now...Dave is a polarizing figure who is known for being outspoken and having strong political and religious beliefs. There is some ownership a person has to have (like any brand) when they are in the public eye knowing they are being scrutinized.
That said, what struck me more than Dave and Megadeth being attacked constantly, was how comfortable people were typing things that would have Mother Teresa punching them in the face. No joke.
How the hell did that become ok?
If you believe that when you point a finger, four are pointing back at you - then what a world full of hateful, anxious, and self-loathing jerks we seem to live in. Is the ease of anonymity to blame? Lackadaisical parenting? Selfie-narcissism? I don't know - probably some of all of it plus other anthropological and societal factors that are clear as mud.
What I do know is that after 2 years of constantly reading and deleting these comments over and over and over - and I mean several hours a day, every day of the week - it made me depressed, anxious, and self-conscious. And the comments had nothing to do with me! After I left Megadeth last fall, it took me weeks to decompress from the constant negative shit-storm.
Back to the young woman in the video…
She is beautiful, creative, entrepreneurial, and brave. It takes serious guts to show the world your acne-ridden face with the aim of showing other women how to feel better about themselves. Some might say if she puts herself out there, she is fair-game. That's crap. You have a responsibility to yourself and your loved ones to be a decent human being. That includes when you are behind a computer screen.
You should not speak (read: type) or act any differently on social media than you would in person. In fact, I might argue that being behind a computer screen gives you the luxury of time to form a thoughtful and polite statement or response.
I have plenty of friends and acquaintances on social media that have very, very different views than my own. That does not give me the right to post hateful comments on their updates or be an incendiary jerk. If someone's updates constantly make your blood boil, then hide them from your timeline or unfriend/unfollow them - simple. If someone posts hateful crap on your updates, you have zero obligation to put up with that.
If you're a brand, I would strongly - and I mean STRONGLY - caution you on weighing in on hot-button issues. If you are a big brand that can afford to lose lots of fans and business by standing for your opinion, then by all means go for it. Just know that people won't be able to help themselves and will commence the hate-spewing within minutes of your social media post.
I guess the entire point is social media has many positives and is a fun industry to be in - but it can also be fraught with hurtful encounters. If you find yourself or your business in this position, be positive, stand up for yourself, and don't ever sink to their level.
The Golden Rule is golden for a reason.
If you've made it through my reflective rant, thank you. I leave you with a little bit of what we need to see and do more of.
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