This has been a difficult few months for our nation. The elections, COVID-19, and the horrific murder of George Floyd all have literally brought our nation to its knees.
I don't want anyone to believe this is a boo-hoo article. If we've had the pleasure of tangling together online, you know that I treated it like a blood sport. From a young age of living in a home split by religion and political leanings, I learned how to research, defend, and debate my belief and feelings. I loved tossing grenades and a few zingers out there.
While politics have always been a slippery slope for a respectful conversation on or offline, I always felt both compelled and even encouraged to share my thoughts online. I was under the delusion that I was helping.
I always thought social media was a safe place to have an open dialogue with people that I disagreed with. While Twitter was a place where I could share a fact or thought, Facebook was the home for my favorite passion. I love people and I'm fascinated by our differences. I relished the opportunity to discuss politics, medicine, technology, religion, or any other topic so that I could better understand others, question my own beliefs, and share my logic.
The vast majority of my country believes in the same things – racial and gender equality, economic opportunity, access to quality, affordable healthcare, less shootings, an end to wars… to name a few. If you're watching the news from another country, though, that's probably not the media profile… but it is the truth.
Of course, we often differ greatly on how we achieve those goals, but they're still the same goals. I assure you that I can take any colleague out to for a drink, discuss any topic, and you'll find us both being empathetic, compassionate, and respectful.
Not so on Facebook.
In the past few months, I shared many thoughts and some opinions… and the response wasn't what I ever expected.
- I shared the tragic killing of someone in my city and was accused of using his murder for my own narrative.
- I preached non-violence and was called a whitesplainer and a racist.
- I shared stories of my friends hurting from the lockdown and was told I wanted to kill others.
- I shared my thoughts on gender equality and was called a mansplainer by a colleague I respected and promoted in my city.
If the current administration did something I appreciated – like passing prison reform – I was attacked for being a MAGA follower. If I criticized the administration for doing something divisive – I was attacked for being a radical lefty.
My friends on the right attack my friends on the left. My friends on the left attack my friends on the right. My Christian friends attack my gay friends. My atheist friends attack my Christian friends. My employee friends attack my business-owner friends. My business owner friends attack my employee friends.
If I asked them to stop attacking each other, then I was accused of not supporting an open dialogue. Everyone felt quite at home attacking me in public. In private, it came as well. My messenger is full of messages demanding how I could take the other persons' side. I even got a pair of phone calls from close friends where they took turns screaming at me.
After so many years of loving social media and embracing open dialogue on Facebook, I'm done. Facebook is not the place for an open dialogue. It's a place where the mob and algorithms work hard to bully you and tear you down.
Facebook is a place where you're berated, unfriended, accused, cussed at, name-called, and treated with contempt. The vast majority of people on Facebook don't want respectful differences, they hate any difference. People don't want to learn anything or be exposed to new ideas, they want to find more reasons to hate others when they think differently from you. And they absolutely love algorithms that harness the anger.
Beyond the bitter contempt and anger, the name-calling and disrespect is unfathomable. People would never speak to you in person the way they speak to you online.
It often reminds me of the World's Apart campaign that Heineken did. When people from totally different worlds sat down together, they treated each other with respect, compassion, and empathy.
Not so on social media. And especially on Facebook. I fear the algorithms of Facebook actually drive division and don't help open, respectful dialogue at all. Facebook is the equivalent of a packed gladiator ring, not a bar with a couple of beers on it.
Again, I'm not innocent here. I've found myself apologizing several times for losing my temper.
I'm exhausted. I'm done. The mob won.
On Facebook, I'll be a silent observer now like everyone else, carefully curating and sharing content that avoids any insight into my beliefs. I'll share pictures of my dog, a delicious plate, a new bourbon, and even some nights on the town. But from here on out, I'm not adding my two cents, providing my insight, or sharing a thought about anything controversial. It's too painful.
Ok, that's great… but what does this have to do with your company and your marketing?
There are many folks in my industry that are calling for businesses to be more transparent about their beliefs and philanthropic initiatives as part of an overall marketing strategy. The belief is that consumers are demanding that companies be transparent in their support, even if it's controversial.
While I respect those individuals, I respectfully disagree with them on this. In fact, I can unequivocally state that it's cost me at least one client who read my opinions online. While the services I provided propelled several of this colleague's businesses, he took issue with something I said online and never requested my services again.
Unless you believe your target audience is the mob and you can survive the onslaught of those who disagree, I'd avoid it at all costs. People don't want open dialogue online, especially on Facebook.
If your audience is not the mob, they'll be coming for your company, too.