The Unsung Heroes of Social Media
The internet is notorious for its proliferation of negativity and trolling. And if you didn’t know that, I applaud you for never reading any comment section or the whole of Twitter.
I make a point of trying to ignore the comment section - only ever passing my eyes through when I’ve tagged my sister in endless memes. Even Twitter has lost its priority in my repertoire of social media scrolling.
When you’re already struggling with your own addiction to social media, it’s best to avoid the worst part of the internet that make you question why you’ve dedicated most of your life - both in work and in every day life - to this cause. I’d argue that it is near vital to your mental health to ignore the comments.
But then again, maybe the comment section isn’t such a bad thing.
The shock of the Trump win in 2016 was a stark reminder that our social media feeds have become a highly curated feed of what (or what Facebook think) we want to see. The filter bubble becomes merely a confirmation of what we already think or believe. When we’re surrounded by a bunch of cheerleaders, we are desensitised to dissent; an assume that elections and life will always turn out our way.
That’s more limiting than we think - but I don’t need to tell you that. That whiff of disbelief every time that orange man dominates the news headlines again? That’s enough to make you reconsider the story your newsfeed tells.
The benefit of the comments section is that we tend to see a more illustrative cross-section of opinion.
Yes, we are forced to face the people we do not agree with. We continue to scratch our head in bewilderment that though it is indeed 2019, there are truly some ignorant bigots still exist and are irate enough to tell the whole of Facebook about it.
In many ways, social media has created the platform on which the marketplace of ideas can truly come to fruition, where everyone has a democratic say in the conversation and ideas can be openly debated.
Of course, like all good things, it’s gone a little awry. While I’m all for a little dissent, it’s amazing to see just how much hatred still runs online. People don’t just debate, they argue, call each other names, vilify and cross boundaries of defamation and privacy.
Somehow, our screens absolve us for any sort of social responsibility to be courteous, nice human beings.,
And do you know who has to read through all that garbage? Community managers.
I tend to do a terrible job at explaining what my job in social media actually entails. But for anyone who has worked in the space, community managers are the bedrock of what we do. It’s the entry level position, the most basic of things you do, the least exciting and yet one of the most important.
Essentially, community management is about engaging the audience to help grow the overall brand identity. The sassy comebacks from Wendys, the timely work of hiring an Asos model who became viral , or even the person who answered your customer service question about when that business is open - that is all community management.
Read: Community Management, Explained from We Are Social AU.
I’ve been doing community management for all the time I’ve been working in social media. I’ve gone from being able to fun and witty back to our commenters for a film distributor to just grabbing details to pass on to the real customer service people for a white-goods brand.
More recently, I’ve been community managing for a news page, monitoring the comments for a large array of news stories over the past two weeks. With abortion bans, Ramadan and of course, the Australian election, it’s been a toughie.
I’m all for people who get politically involved and are voicing their opinions over the internet. I think it’s more important than ever to get educated and vocal about issues that matter to them.
The most dangerous thing is how quickly things can escalate in the comments section.
There’s one dissenting view and suddenly everyone is on their case, berating the guy for his point of view, calling out details they’ve hunted down from his profile, calling names and inciting violence. I mean, just grow up!
But more importantly, think of the person who is sitting there reading all of this and having to hide it all because it is quite often illegal, and definitely agains the code of conduct that most pages have for their pages.
If you’ve ever felt like you are seeing too much negativity on your newsfeed, think about the person who’s job is to read all of it and hide as much as possible to just maybe create a slightly better feed for you.
It’s a small and thankless job. It’s not just tedious to do but truly bad for your mental health. Two weeks in, I’m not just sad about the stuff I’ve read, but that we live in a world that has given a platform for these things to be said so liberally and seemingly without consequence.
So what can we do about it? Easy. Do Better.
We can all do a little better to make social media a better place. While the algorithms and the UX have been designed by others, the content that goes around is made by people. So it makes sense that it’s those people who need to be making better content.
So before you enter your angry Twitter tirade, don’t just think about the person who’s job it is to make sure you aren’t defying any laws, why not think about whether you’re defying any laws yourself?
If what you said could be seen as vilification, defamation, racist or misogynistic, don’t say it.
If you wouldn’t say it to the person to their face, don’t say it.
If you’re not willing or able to back it up with facts or here any dissenting voices, don’t say it.
Just have a little more decency with what you are posting online because people do read it and react, whether it’s their job or not.
And to the community managers, ploughing through the comments day in and day out, I commend you and I empathise with you. Are you ok? Are you taking care of yourself? Do you need to talk to someone about it?
Because please do. The world can seem like a dark and angry place deep in those comments sections. But get outside, take a drink. And maybe even share this piece so someone else might just be a little nicer online next time.