Yesterday I was on Twitter when Dooce tweeted, several times, about her frustrations with her broken Maytag washer.
Twitter went NUTS.
There was debate about whether or not someone as famous as Heather Armstrong should have the right to complain about her Maytag, because with about a million+ followers, that kind of power is dangerous. Followers just might get all up in arms, and want to take down Maytag on her behalf because dude, Dooce is famous.
Which is why corporations then send offers of free appliances to her when they hear that she's not happy with Maytag.
Twitter, and being a blogger, is obviously a powerful thing. People read your words, some actually like you, and they listen to your recommendations. I do agree that even us little guys need to be careful about how we wield the power of our keyboards. One small, seemingly innocent tweet can inspire a mob mentality that can bring a company's PR department an Internet nightmare. (remember the whole #nikonhatesbabies drama?) All that power is quite frightening, really.
(Edited to add: it should be noted that there was no call to arms to boycott Maytag, but it was part of the debate. Should we say things that could, potentially, send our followers off on our behalf to create a PR nightmare, such as Dooce's comment "Do not buy Maytag"?)
This summer I had to make a choice about tweeting about a hotel that we stayed at, and a customer service screw up we witnessed that was so unbelievable that it had our jaws on the floor. I could have called out the hotel and really soaked that incident for all it was worth because man, it is a good story. I was even sitting at the computer, on Twitter, when it happened. Later on, after dealing with the management, I was so pissed off that I wrote a scathing post, calling them out and saying that their customer service was crap and I'd never recommend the hotel to anyone. I left it in my drafts, waiting to be published.
A week went by, then two, and I chose not to post it. Why?
Once I looked back on what had happened, I realized that I was over-reacting. Would it be fair to punish the entire hotel, the company, and all the good employees because of one staff member? Was it really my job as a blogger to play customer service police, even though the incident didn't happen to me personally? Was I justified, because I'm a blogger and a customer, to blog or tweet about the incident and bring down that hotel?
Do I disagree with Dooce tweeting her frustrations about Maytag? Not all all. We all get frustrated. (Even me!) What really boggles me is followers that take that sort of thing and run with it. Seriously? People might boycott Maytag now just because Dooce can't do her laundry? Are you kidding me? Sure, I can imagine that it's rough and geez, that's too bad, but haven't we all been there? Is it really something that even should be news? Dooce wouldn't even want anyone to because all she is doing is venting her frustration! Are followers just sheep that follow everything we say? Maybe I'm naive, but I'd like to think that they are smart, media savvy people who would be critical of what they see on the screen and not turn into some raving mob.
Internet mob mentality ruins the credibility of us bloggers, by making us look like a bunch of nut jobs all ready to take down any company that remotely pisses us off. In the case of the hotel, as soon as the manager remembered that I am a blogger, and I had complained the year before because his staff were acting completely unprofessional, he brushed me off. It appeared as though he thought I was just another blogger looking for some juicy drama to stir the Internet pot, and I almost did.
It's not just us bloggers though, who have a responsibility. I would hope that my readers and followers would have enough sense to know that when I'm irritated with Toyota because my bike rack came without instructions, boycotting the company would be just plain stupid. Frivolous. A waste of our power as bloggers and readers. Not that it would happen anyway, because I'm just a little, hardly known blogger. Fame seems to make some people go a bit giddy; "Oh my GOD! It's Dooce! Her washer is broken! Dooce! The queen!"
Meh. Whatever. She's Dooce, she's famous, who cares? What makes her laundry woes any more important than anyone else's?
All of us, collectively, whether we blog or read, comment or follow, have a voice that we need to use judiciously. When we all band together we can be a force that is reckoned with. Don't sully or weaken that voice by stirring the Internet pot with high schoolish drama we can all do without.
A little common sense, on ALL our parts, goes a long way.
Edited to add:
PS. if you wish to read the whole story via Dooce, I recommend you do. It's quite funny actually. I felt that it really illustrates my point over how 140 characters without the back story can really cause a whole firestorm on the Internets.
P.S.S: What I forgot to mention is that while I can see why she was so upset, there is still one part that really bothers me. At one point, Dooce says she asked if the customer service person knew what Twitter was, that she has over a million followers, and asked if she mentioned her terrible experience on Twitter if someone would then help her.
Maytag told her to go ahead (stupidity on their part) and so she did.
Should we, as bloggers, use our influence to get what we want? Threaten to out companies when they give us bad service? Should our blogs and influence be used as a social media weapon? It reminds me of the blogger who threatened a Crocs rep to cough up a pair of free shoes or she'd say something bad about him.
What do you think? For me, it's pretty clear; that is NOT how I want to use my voice.