Social Media can be cruel, inspiring, a great leveler and even a great teacher.
The sad thing about Social Media is the very uneven playing ground when it comes to interpretation of the written word – some of us have honed our talents for written communication to a very high level and some of us are doomed to be skewered on the point of a very sharp riposte.
Look up riposte and experience another shaming indictment of our times – most definitions are for gaming and fighting and not for the more highbrow literary meaning.
Some of the most cutting and witty ripostes originate in the LGBT community – take this one for example: In November 2016 Destiny Church Leader, Brian Tamaki claimed that the Christchurch, New Zealand earthquakes were caused by the earth reacting to “the weight of human sin” and singled out gay then-Christchurch Central MP Tim Barnett’s championing of the civil unions legislation which allowed same-sex relationships to be legally recognised.
Green MP Denise Roche’s immediate witty comeback, “Sex just can’t be that good,” was voted Quote of the Year by GayNZ.com.
The wonderful thing about Roche’s comment was that it was quick, to the point, witty and didn’t denigrate Tamaki whilst pointing out that he really was a bit of a dimwit!
18-year-old Maxwell Barrett decided that he would come out of the closet by having this classic quote placed below his photo in his High School Yearbook; “Of course I dress well, I didn’t spend all that time in the closet for nothing.”
Which brings me to my point (sort of) – too many times we see people expressing opinions on Social Media that are not too well formed and the immediate reaction from people mentioned is to attack, threaten and personalise.
For instance I know that the sensitive topics to express any form of ‘adverse’ opinion on are Sex, Politics, Religion so if you want to get a bit of attention then post a ‘questionable’ comment such as “I don’t like Christians/Muslims/Buddists/Women/Men/ANC/DA/EFF/UDM/Lesbians/Gays/Heterosexuals/Vegans/Whites/Blacks/Coloured/Indians etc.” You are guaranteed to get a storm of protest from persons identifying themselves closely with one of those groupings.
An insidious format of the ‘less than witty riposte’ has now surfaced, though. This one is most prevalent on Twitter but also occurs on Facebook and goes like this:
- A well followed account tweets or posts an article that could be taken out of context.
- An account looking for 15 seconds of fame picks up on this and attacks.
- A Twar (Twitter War) or Fwar (Facebook War) normally ensues which is only good for the attacker.
A rule of thumb in the above is that normally the amount of venom is inversely proportional to the number of followers that the account has. Everyone wants to be the ‘new David’.
My best advice to anyone being attacked is:
- Be alerted to the potential skirmish quickly and in the starting stages
- Decide if this is a skirmish you can win based on your reputation, the number of followers and how threatening taking this public is
- Make a judgement call – are we right or wrong – by getting a pair of eyes experienced in social media crisis management to look at it
- Deal with the message FIRST and not the person in your company that posted it or with the person offended
- You have two choices – Delete or Edit – remember that people take screenshots in anticipation of either of these happening
- If you edit or delete you need to release a non-judgemental statement as to WHY
- Share the Shit out of your release which must be STICKY or PINNED
- If the channel allows then contact your detractors privately and thank them for engaging and leave a direct link to your release
- Engage with the person in your organisation who posted the potentially damaging words and determine if they need more training – merely firing that person is the sign of a weak leader not interested in true development or change.
- Invite your detractors to sit down with you and explain their position so that you can learn from them
- Remember most people will take the time to say nasty (or good) stuff because they are genuinely engaged and care about your product/business.
- Treat everyone involved with the utmost respect and really listen – you will then find common ground.
What characterises these ‘wars’ is the simple fact that people have lost the ability to put each other down without making the other person feel non threatened – a classic riposte is almost like deflating a balloon.
Consider this classic from Winston Churchill in reply to Viscountess Astor who said; “If I were your wife, I would poison your tea.” Churchill’s answer was bitingly funny; “Madam, if I were your husband, I would drink it.”
There is simply no way that we can discern intent from a mere 140 characters (on Twitter) or 469 characters displayed (on Facebook) and yet people take offence, threaten each other and presume that the object of their hatred carries some form of ‘hidden agenda’.
A classic example of people taking things out of context was Gareth Cliff’s ‘defence’ of Penny Sparrow – essentially Gareth was defending her right to say what she wanted and NOT agreeing with her statement. Of course the Social Media dimwits misinterpreted Cliff leading to him being fired from Idols – proving that ignorance exists even in a collective. Cliff won the court case, though, was vindicated and re-instated.
South Africa is a diverse and highly interesting nation offering a plethora of cultures and differences which are the spark for many trolls. But, we have a very robust far reaching constitution, the envy of countless countries, which we need to understand and apply. Essentially the constitution protects your right to free speech but that is a very sharp tool to hand out to people with ‘agendas’ and a lack of empathy!
In the times when I had large numbers of staff, my wife always wanted to be in the office with me when the time came to say goodbye to a non-performing employee. Her reason? She always said that I had an ability to fire people and make them feel good about it. They would walk out full of confidence about themselves, never go to the CCMA and invariably find good jobs after a reference from me. I won’t claim a 100% success rate as there was that one person whose parents had pushed the boundaries of natural selection a bit too far.
If you have a Social Media Crisis on your hands or would like me to familiarise myself with your business and potential threats then CONTACT ME HERE.
More famous ripsote’s:
George Bernard Shaw; “Am enclosing two tickets to the first night of my new play. Bring a friend. If you have one.”
Churchill; “Cannot possibly attend first night, will attend second. If there is one.”
As Clare Booth Luce moved aside to let Dorothy Parker go through a doorway first she said; “Age before beauty.”
Dorothy Parker replied; “Pearls before swine.”
U.S. Senator Stephen Douglas in 1858, called Abraham Lincoln “two-faced.”
Lincoln replied; “I leave it to my audience. If I had another face, do you think I would wear this one?”
Whilst taking a bow after a performance of The Importance Of Being Earnest somebody apparently threw a rotten cabbage at Oscar Wilde.
To which Wilde said; “Thank you, my dear fellow. Every time I smell it, I shall be reminded of you.”
After being accused by socialist MP Bessie Braddock or the Conservative Lady Astor, the first female MP (history is divided on whom) of being ‘disgustingly drunk’ Winston Churchill responded: “My dear, you are ugly, and what’s more, you are disgustingly ugly. But tomorrow I shall be sober and you will still be disgustingly ugly.”