Should it stay or should it go now?
A few days ago, there was a rather heated exchange on a Facebook fan page I follow. As is the case with the internet, the exchange became less than civil in approximately the amount of time it takes for forcefully hammer a few keys and hit send with a smug smirk on your face.
After a time, someone stated that they felt the entire negative thread should be deleted as it reflected badly on the organization in question.
I couldn’t disagree more. To me, that was the worst of all possible responses.
I’m going to use some examples to illustrate my point and one of them is going to use offensive language. I’m bringing it up now so it doesn’t come as a surprise later.
The really offensive word is coming right up so get ready!
About a year and a half ago, we caused considerable controversy because we decided to name our Vilification Tennis show with a Handicapped theme “Going Full Retard.”
It may come as a surprise to some (it did not come as a surprise to me) that the word “Retard” is a hot button word. Individuals with family members who are mentally handicapped have spent considerable time and effort trying to find ways to completely prevent the use of the word.
In fact, the film Tropic Thunder received considerable criticism for including a conversation using that word. The conversation in question was between two jackasses who completely fail to understand how offensive they are being. The phrase “Going full retard” was, in fact, taken directly from the film.
The intent with the title then, was to acknowledge how offensive it was.
I’m pretty sure the folks who enjoy our show totally got it.
But then some other folks saw the title and they were upset. As is the case in the internet age, when you get upset, you tell your friends. And they get upset.
Now I’m not here to suggest that they did or did not have the right to be angry. They certainly had the right to complain about it.
And complain about it they did. There were dozens of angry posts on our event page. In fact, you can still read them.
And therein lies my point.
When the angry posts started to roll in, I had two choices. I could just leave them there or I could delete them as they came in.
Ultimately, I don’t think you ever help your case by hiding from criticism. When you delete a critical post, several others pop up pointing out that you deleted the post.
I left the comments up and chose not to respond to them. Trying to explain what I was doing to dozens of angry people wasn’t going to make them less angry. It would, in fact, make them more angry because the one thing I wasn’t going to do was change the name of the show.
To me, transparency is important in all public affairs. My theory about privacy on the internet is that there is no privacy on the internet. If I post something and think “boy, I really hope person X doesn’t stumble across this post,” I really shouldn’t post the damn thing.
So if you are going to name a show “Going Full Retard” and it pisses some people off, well that is the price you pay. You only make things worse by trying to hide the fact you pissed people off.
When I helped form CONvergence many years ago, our philosophy when it came to complaints was that you dealt with them honestly and openly. You didn’t pretend they did not exist.
That doesn’t mean you always give the complainer what they want. You do, however, give them the opportunity to complain.
We added to that the policy that we never played thought police with convention volunteers. So long as you did not speak for the convention, we weren’t going to tell you what you should or should not say.
Want to express your own opinion? Go ahead. Want to bitch about the con on a public forum? Go ahead.
That doesn’t mean we liked it when a con-com member pitched a public fit. There were times when it was a real pain in the ass.
However, the alternative was worse because if you try to put a gag order on volunteers, sooner or later they are going to rebel.
Certainly there are always exceptions. A post that is openly abusive or threatening may need to be taken down. If it is just someone being a jackass, however, leave it up. Personally, I think when someone is a jackass it reflects poorly on themselves – not on you.
Alternatively, I think it reflects poorly when you can’t take criticism. On the Facebook page of my companies’ website, the policy is to take down any critical comment immediately.
Now it isn’t my company and I don’t make the rules but I think it is the worst possible response. People are going to criticize. How are you going to respond? To me, deleting a critical comment pretends that it doesn’t exist. Responding to it in a polite fashion seems to me a better way to handle the situation.
And if you do that publicly, you have an opportunity to show everyone reading your page that you care.
Not my page. Not my rules. But I shake my head every time a post that is even moderately critical gets taken down.
The internet has turned just about anyone who would like to be a public figure into a public figure. Every public figure deals with criticism. Ever notice that the ones who deal with criticism with grace and style are the ones everyone likes?