Why is negativity common on social media?

If you watched the last series of Top Gear, you know that it was the beginning of a new chapter for series, the fans and of the BBC. But five minutes into the new series without Clarkson and crew and the verdicts were in – Twitter hated it. Many fans were upset that Chris Evans insulted Clarkson, it was imitating the previous format and Evans was generally annoying. For me, it made for quite entertaining reading (compared to actually watching the TV show). But it did get me thinking, while there are many great positives on social media, why are people so quick to be negative on social media – especially when, in reality, people are generally pleasant?

Posting a Status as Quickly as Making a Brew

The instantaneousness of the internet is that everything can be done with a simple push of a button. Unlike today, complaining to companies in the past used to be a tiresome effort, where you had to find their address, buy stationery, handwrite/type a long letter, lick a stamp, walk to your nearest post box and wait 3-5 working days for a response (if any). Now, it can be done as quickly as making a cup of tea, with a response just as quickly. This does beg the question – does the impulsiveness and instantaneousness of social media sometimes not leave enough time for rational reasoning?

However, this does bring its positives. While many companies plan well in advance their social strategy (like GLW does), once implemented the results can be instantaneous. This can be a useful metric to analyse changes as they are made and quickly correct them if needs be – using methods such as A/B testing for web design that GLW provide. An example of this was when Instagram changed their layout and logo. Users went to Twitter to give their opinion and, by the end of the first hour, a verdict could be decided (people loved the layout but not so much for the logo). Instagram has stuck by their guns on this.

Keeping It in The “Family”

As with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, belonging is a need that is only superseded from being safe and staying alive. Belonging can take many different forms, from being in loving relationships, supporting a football team to sharing general interests with friends. And that what social media does best – collective belonging.

As users voice their personas, their opinions will be met with like-minded users (and also opposites). There is no better example of this than the current EU referendum, a political guillotine that has split the country, let alone social media users. Pages have been made for both the remain and leave campaigns, each arguing their voice. Users are able to associate themselves and be a part of a group that accept their values and disrepute those who don’t.

This can be great for companies who want a loyal following – but it is a double-edged sword. For every loyal follower, you are also inviting in opposition – look at Windows and Macs users.

The Keyboard Warriors

It is common to meet people in life and online to who disagree with your viewpoint on a variety of different subjects. While most people generally withhold their conflict, shrug it off, saying “each to their own”, the internet can unleash an uninhibited internal anger within some users. We call these keyboard warriors.

While this is mainly reserved for the trolls of the internet (those whose identities are hidden and attempt to causing grief to users on purpose), there are a lot of people who are vocal while remaining on public profiles – some even make a living out of it. Why? Because they can with little consequence. They are behind their screens protected with only words for confrontation. I doubt that Twitter users would be so quick to insult Chris Evans to his face if given the chance.

It’s this lack of physical connection that can be important. Communication what isn’t said is just as important as what is said. When communicating face-to-face, you can pick up on other signs of the person through their stance, clothing, attitude, facial expressions, clenched fist etc. that may invoke a primitive fight or flight response. In prehistoric times, remembering bad things, such as what berries were poisonous, was more important for survival. Without these signifiers, you are less likely to tip-toe around a subject for the fear of physical confrontation.

What Can Users/Companies Do to Curb Negativity?

While social media is a great way to connect with your customers. But if you have a very active social channel, chances are that you will encounter negativity whether it is a complaint or a direct attack. This is where reputation management and customer service comes in, that GLW is a provider of. Here are some tips we can provide to help you with some negativity:

  • If it’s a complaint and it’s legitimate (i.e. they have reason to, such as bad service or faulty product), try and take the conversation on a 1 to 1 level to resolve the problem. Not only will this avoid further conflict, it will make the issue private so other users cannot comment.
  • Be quick to message back to users to complain. A fast response and resolution time, along with good customer service can actually improve relations.
  • If the comment is a direct attack – simply rise above it. Some may find this easier than others to do but know that a lot of people would not say things in person and they are just uninhibited.
  • Equally, don’t be negative back. It seems like simple advice, but some companies get caught up in the moment.
  • If the comment is persistent and also personal, consider using the platforms safety features to report them. This can block them from the site. But, if they keep re-registering, consider taking it to the police.
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