Social Media — Love it or Hate it?
My first negative experience with social media occurred several years ago when I was the Human Resource Manager for a company with stores across the United States. It was 5 a.m. in Mantorville and I was still sleeping when my phone rang. It was the company’s east coast manager calling to inform me that a former employee had made a post on Facebook a few hours ago.
Days earlier, a police officer in New York had been shot and killed. Our former employee’s post was a call for more people to kill more cops. The post went viral and the social media community was already blasting my company. The former employee’s page was not up to date and he still listed my company as his current employer.
In addition to all the negative comments on the internet, we also received emails sent directly to the company. Most of the comments and emails talked about how bad our company was to be employing someone that wanted to kill police officers. Some of the people threatened to vandalize the store where they thought the person still worked and they threatened our employees.
It was mid-morning when the manager called me again.
He was now at the store and found that our employees were upset with the company because we had not responded to the comments on the internet. I explained to the manager that our attorney’s had advised us not to respond to the comments because they didn’t want us to say anything that could be interpreted as disparagement of our former employee. While we were talking, a police car pulled into the store’s parking lot. Two officers were walking toward the front entrance when the manager told me he would call me back after he had met with the officers. Before the manager hung up, he said, “These cops look really mad.”
In less than half an hour, the manager called me back to let me know that the cops were unbelievable. They walked into the store and split up with one officer talking to different employees. The officer in charge talked to our manager and explained that they had already checked on the former employee and knew that we had terminated the jerk only a few weeks after he had started working for the company. The police department was monitoring the internet and was concerned that someone might try to harm our company’s property or hurt one of our employees.
They showed up to let us know they were going to protect us and our property. They would stop by many times for the rest of the week and longer if needed. They wanted their squad cars to be seen in our parking lot. They would also cruise through our property many times each night to check on things. The current employees felt better, knowing that the local police force already knew the truth and they had our employee’s backs.
The matter came to an end the next day when one of our current employee’s responded to some of the comments on social media. After he explained that the former employee was fired over a month ago, after having worked for only a few weeks, people on the internet started defending our company.
After this east coast experience, I was extremely negative on social media for years. I closed my Facebook account and vowed never to use it again.
Then I had a positive experience. When my son died while teaching in China in 2018, I found that Facebook was the best way to inform all of my relatives and his friends of his death. I reopened my Facebook account and posted the information on my son’s death. Family members that were friends on Facebook with most of the family, shared my post and within 24 hours, all of my aunts, uncles and cousins were aware of what happened to my son.
I have learned that social media has both good and bad uses. Those of us who use it need to discern what is positive and what is negative. This is a huge challenge because we all have different opinions. What I believe is bad may be considered good by one of my friends.
Facebook is trying to control the content on its site, making sure it is all acceptable. Facebook’s efforts are not meeting expectations. Last week they took down a post regarding an event at a local church. This just shows how difficult it is to regulate content on the internet.
The responsibility for good internet communication lies with each of us. We cannot depend on the government or large corporations to determine what is good or bad. Each of us needs to act responsibly and treat each other with respect.
Terry Eckstein is a local businessman and president of the Mantorville Chamber of Commerce.
Photo: Adventures in Kasson- Mantorville Terry Eckstein