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04 2010

Can We Really Be Nice Online When People Are So Nasty Offline ?

Posted in Life | 2 comments

Last Tuesday,  a woman called me regarding an unpaid bill.

I had barely said Hello when she began to scream at me.  Foul language, shrill tone, very impolite.  When I finally got her to calm down, she explained that the bill had been delivered to my stables, not me.  So I explained to her that I had never received the bill in question but would be happy to clear this issue up by writing a check immediately and sending it in the mail.

Given her anger, I braced myself for a big sum.

She barked that I owed her $35.00.  THIRTY FIVE DOLLARS…

All that anger and craziness and unpleasantness for such a small sum of money.

A small incident? Perhaps.  But I am afraid encounters like this are a sign of the times.

Behind the wheel of the car, shopping in  stores, traveling on planes and conversations over the phone—no place is immune to impoliteness and rudeness. The smallest issues trigger people off.  The slightest mole hill becomes a mountain.

Why are people so grumpy?

Well, for starters, times are tough.  Tougher than they ever have been.

People feel stressed about money, isolated (according to a recent Sky News report, isolation is now considered nothing short of a silent epidemic) and  anxious for the future.

But if people are getting nastier and nastier to each other offline, how does that affect our interactions online.  And in particular in social media?  Because social media is all about BEING NICE– -it stands for openness, transparency, sharing and listening.

How will this work?  Will the ill will in our ‘real’ lives ultimately spill over into our virtual, social lives?  Or will social media be the only place we can seek relief from the unrelenting strain in relationships?

My guess is that it will be a little bit of both.

What do you think?

  1. Adam says:

    This is very true Susan. People have lost patience these days. Nobody wants to respect the other person’s privacy and space. People want to just go about doing there own things the way they want to. If you fall into there way – you are a very nice person – otherwise you seem to be a not so good person.

    To the extent – if they ask you for money and you refuse – you are not a good person because you are not helping them in there time of need. What they do not realize is if they do not pay your money back – you end up suffering.

    What you have written above is quite true. It is so hard these days to find someone nice to talk to and a person who talks with respect to you.

    Thanks & Regards,

  2. I think this “phenomenon” isn’t so new. It’s been around for quite a while. I remember a conversation a relative had with a Sears customer service rep on the phone when I was younger, pre-Internet. She was quite upset with the rep for a failed order over Christmas. The rep didn’t do anything wrong.

    When you take a direct connection away from a relationship, you can lose your social responsibility of acting appropriately. Telephones, email, fax, online all can remove a direct connection. Even being a stranger is one step away from a direct connection. Being nice allows the other person more time to establish an identity apart from the cause of the anger. You can be angry about the situation but should you be angry with the messenger/cs rep. No. Unless they deserve some ill because of their poor social skills, etc. My guess with this 35 dollar person is there was more to the story other than you. She probably had other Stressors involved in the situation. If she gave you the opportunity to allow you to establish an identity apart from the Stressors, she would have been easier on you. Unless of course, she’s just a easily angered person which would occur in real life or online.

    I think Social Media avenues provide companies another possibility to establish that direct connection again. That is if it’s done right.