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The Wild West of online comments

How far do you go to express your views online? Do you put in your two cents worth? Are you polite or do you "fucking" go for it? When in our our modern society did it become acceptable to use foul language, threaten to harm people and/or property?

I'm not talking about a whinge or a moan (we are all guilty of this), I'm talking about a full miltary assault. All of these aggressive posts are getting our attention, but all for the wrong reasons.

According Oberlo globally in 2021 there was 3.78 billion social media users, (48% of the population) all spending an average of 2.5 hours a day on social networks. Communication teams who manage social media on daily basis, are dealing with more than just questions and queries from customers. They are at the cold face of people's frustrations, pent up anger and sometimes mental health issues. These teams are taking abuse on behalf of the business. They are literally "taking one for the team".

I've worked in digital marketing for over 10 years, and social media has evolved over that time. In the past few years I've noticed (and I'm sure I'm not the only one) a major shift change in attitude, the hatred being hammered out on keyboards across the globe is serious problem.

Before social media...

"People who always comment negatively on social media are the ones who would have gone to a public hanging". - Tom Allen, British Comedian

I think this quotes sums up the type of online behaviour we are seeing today. Long before social media gave everyone a personal online platform, our access to expressing ourselves to a lager audience was limited. Speakers corner, the pub, the water cooler, letter to the editor, talk-back-radio, chain mails, magazines etc.

Now every Tom, Dick and Harry has a place to spout their views, and while I'm all for free speech, let's have a conversation, stop attacking each other. Haven't we grown up yet? Haven't we learnt from history, hate is not the way to go.

Where does it start? It starts at the top.

A few years ago Donald Trump was saying whatever he wanted on a global stage. Without consequence he was mocking disabled people or grabbing women by the pussy. If he says it or does it, then it must be ok?

I'm not blaming this on Donald, the list is quite extensive with other high profile people; politicians, journalists, shock jocks, social influencers, entertainers, I could go on. All saying whatever they want, without consequences.

Throw in the Joe Rogan and the Spotify debate, with his views on Covid-19 among other things, and you start to wonder isn't this getting out of hand? Are they hiding behind the guise of freedom of speech for the sake of likes, clicks and views. Are businesses and individuals all going a bit too far?

Facebook, the king of social, has 2.32 billion active monthly users*, has become a feeding ground for feral behaviour. You can say what you like, when you like, and Facebook, doesn't seem to care. Comments, which clearly go against their community standards, appear on the surface to be removed at random, without an obvious strategy. I've reported racist, sexist and offensive comments, and Facebook has said they don't got against their community standards?

Twitter has seen it's fair share of public arguments and spats over the years, and has become known for it's trolling and abusive behaviour. Now on LinkedIn, I see CEO's, Directors, MD's, CFO's, and company owners spewing hate, negativity and abusive messages across the platform. So I guess if you see the leadership team doing it, then that's also ok? Whether or not you agree with someone, there are constructive ways to explain yourself, there is no need for so much hate and foul language.

Code of conduct

Most businesses will have a code of conduct, contact your HR team and get a copy. If you are posting on LinkedIn, you are representing the business. I'm not suggesting you don't post a comment, but come on, let's be nice to each other, it's been a tough couple of years for everyone. If you want to know more about code of conduct, read The fine line between code of conduct and social media guidelines.

“You need to assume that anything you post online could end up in your boss’ inbox.”

Charles Thompson, Employment and Labour Lawyer, Burchell MacDougall LLP’s

What you talkin' about?

What's the big deal? You know what, sometimes people are funny. Their comments hit the right tone, which trust me, all good social teams appreciate. But when it's a constant barrage of abuse, threats, foul language, racist, sexist or homophobic comments, I think it's time to rethink how you communicate. You might also like to read Sexist, Racist or Homophobic Marketing Tactics...would you do it?

Would you be happy for your tamariki (children) or whānau (family and friends) to be at the receiving end of this commentary? Here's an extremely small taster of comments I've received while working in social media: suck my balls, you suck balls, fukwits, money hungry carnts, fuck you, Kefe Ufa (fuck you in Samoan), you all have smelly minges, "useless fucks", "dusty old cunt bitches". There's also kys (kill yourself), Pack of pricks, eat a fat one losers, mother fucking maggots, Fukin wankers, Get fucked and fuck you all, Greedy mother fucking scum and I'm gonna fuck it all up.

Then you head into the realm of; You sound like the KKKlan and Fuck you NAZI, NAZI, NAZI. Not to mention the variations of the middle finger emoji 🖕🖕🏻🖕🏼🖕🏾🖕🏿(Often combined with the hand waving emoji, 👋, which we all know the context is not friendly).

You can argue it's down to personal opinion if you think it's crossed the line, I'll let you make your own mind up. But would you walk into a place of business, speak to the receptionist like this? Would you scream at the retail worker they are a money hungry carnt? Yell at the postman to eat a fat one loser? Scream at the librarian, dusty old cunt bitches? Or tell the supermarket worker to get fucked?

Calm down, take a breath, and think about what you are saying.


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