I felt bad as soon as I sent the Tweet, but apparently not bad enough to go back and delete it later.

In my state of being tired and stressed, one morning I called out an otherwise excellent organization on Twitter.

They didn’t deserve it, though there was a legitimate point I could have made via a phone call or email. You know…something less public.

But instead I stress-Tweeted.

It’s the worst kind of move. Entitled. Self-aggrandizing. Boorish in the highest regard. This is what I was really going to use the supercomputer in my hand for?

To the credit of the organization I mentioned, they responded within a couple hours with a message saying they weren’t sure what was happening and didn’t have ready answers but would look into it for me.

As soon as they responded I replied myself, apologizing for the message.

I try to do this as little as possible, both because I have to roll my eyes anytime I see someone acting like they should be treated with more care by a company because of Twitter. They hold the “Tweet” button to the throats of a company, demanding special treatment or so help me I’ll do it. Most every time I do I wind up apologizing because jeez, who do I think I am?

Too many people approach social media with the mindset that they’re interacting with a “brand.”

That’s not accurate. They’re interacting with a person who manages the online profiles for that brand.

That person isn’t responsible for the treatment you got at the boarding gate. They’re not the one who deploys snowplows. They’re not the ones who forgot to include the cables in the package you ordered.

They’re people who are doing their best with the resources they’re given. It might be one or two people who are completely overwhelmed because management won’t approve a budget to expand the team or buy a better CMS. It might be one or more people from a 25 person team who are trading off responses and who still can’t get on top of things.

More than anything, they’re people who are having their own days. Part of my hesitation to complain on Twitter and explicitly call out or tag a company is that I’ve been on the other end of that message. Usually it’s “OK, let’s deal with this” but sometimes when I’m having a rough day anyway a message that essentially holds me responsible for some problem is a bit too much. It just gets me down and adds to the depression or stress I was already feeling.

I don’t want to do that to someone else.

As with most things, our online communications (not to mention our actual in-person relationships) could be made better by adding a little bit of empathy.

That’s not a multi-billion dollar company you’re complaining to. It’s Karen, who was running late this morning because her kids were playing with her transit card. It’s Steve, who is worried because his parents, who live two hours away, haven’t returned his phone call from last Sunday.

Take a minute before you push out that indulgent Tweet and consider who it is you’re expecting to rectify your situation. A little empathy goes a long way.

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.

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