Whines of the World (Wide Web)

Is it just in my network, or is social media turning all of us into a society of complainers?

You know what I’m talking about. The Facebook status update about the lack of mayo on an otherwise pristine sandwich. The tweet lambasting traffic conditions or calling out a store/hotel/airline/brand for – insert gripe here, ranging from legitimate to comically petty.

Make no mistake; I am as guilty of this as anyone. In fact, it was this tweet I posted just recently that got me thinking of this in the first place:

Granted, it was annoying.  After months of indifference toward Living Social (I have been a long time Groupon subscriber and didn’t see the need for yet another daily deal), the Fandango offer that I wrote about last week was enough to convert me.  Once I had registered, and entered all of my billing info, the site’s server became overloaded and I was unable to complete my transaction. After several failed attempts to retry, I took to Twitter.

What is significant here is that this was something I never would have done without social media.  If complaining had required making a phone call, or even writing an email, I wouldn’t have done it. No, I would have just waited a few minutes and tried again (which, incidentally, is what I ended up doing, and I am now the proud owner of 2-for-1 movie tickets).

You might argue that social media is just another channel for customer service and that it shouldn’t be viewed any differently than our traditional means of filing complaints, but that line of reasoning overlooks two very important differences. For one, complaining via social media is just so much easier (read: less time consuming)…social media enables complaints that wouldn’t have been made otherwise. And two, there is an icky “shame factor” to the whole thing.

Sure, I could have filed my complaint privately, by starting my tweet with @LivingSocial, but instead, I took a different route. I purposefully began my tweet with text so that it would show up in the feeds of all of my Twitter followers. I knew Living Social probably wouldn’t reply to me, but a part of me was satiated because I knew that at least someone had heard me vent. If even one person, I reasoned, saw this tweet and gave Living Social a second thought before signing up, I had done damage equal to the perceived slight on their part.

In retrospect, I could have achieved the same result by approaching things a little differently. I could have contacted Living Social with an @ – reply that only they would see. I also could have been polite and more open to communication, rather than the snarky tone I took. Finally, I could have balanced my complaint with praise when it was resolved. *

* I kind of did do this when I posted the deal to my Facebook wall, but even that was self-serving in that there was an incentive to do so.

As much as social media can be an effective method of airing your grievances, and despite the fact that it may be the fault of pushover marketers or a one-way ticket out of a job, at the end of the day, it’s just kind of obnoxious. There’s even an Urban Dictionary entry for “twitching:” the act of tweeting bitter and whiny statements.

If you have a beef with a company, take it up with them directly. Next time you’re about to complain on a public forum like Facebook or Twitter, think about who’s reading it. Our friends and followers are there because we engage in conversation and content that is interesting to them. The uppity attendant at the Delta counter just isn’t that.



4 thoughts on “Whines of the World (Wide Web)

  1. […] At first glance, it may seem easy to call this backlash too harsh. Take Amy Jo Martin, the author of the HBR piece, for example. I’m sure that Amy is a smart and well-intentioned woman…heck, she’s certainly been successful. Why are all these mean social media bullies picking on her, right? It’s just yet another example of how social media makes it so much easier for the consumer to complain, a subject I’ve written about in the past. […]

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