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Facebook vents direct complaints to cyberspace, not problem solvers

Facebook vents direct complaints to cyberspace, not problem solvers

People may complain online to avoid face-to-face conflict, says a consumer behaviour expert.

People may complain online to avoid face-to-face conflict, says a consumer behaviour expert.

Maybe your coffee was terrible or you thought one of the kids at school was picking on your child.

Is a Facebook rant your first response?

Keyboard warriors are sharing their frustrations online, often before they go to the people who could fix them.

Complaints about doctors, cafes or customer service are among those people have tried to air through a community ...

Complaints about doctors, cafes or customer service are among those people have tried to air through a community Facebook group.

Businesses and schools have been among those getting a blast, forcing Facebook group administrators to make ‘no name and shame’ rules.

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Online venting pops up all the time on the community Facebook page Residents of Rototuna/Rototuna North.

People have tried to air all kinds of grievances, including with doctors, cafes or customer service, according to admin Rebekah Kenny.

“It’s easier for people to jump online and complain and get a whole bunch of people going ‘oh, I’m sorry that happened to you’ or ‘we had a similar situation’ than it is for them to actually man up and go to the person directly,” she said.

“A lot of the time people are complaining on hearsay. It didn’t actually personally happen to them or their child or whatever, it’s sort of second-hand information.”

The group made a rule against naming and shaming and there’s usually a level-headed commenter who will suggest talking to the person involved, Kenny said.

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Certain people were repeat ranters, she said.

“I think some of it’s misinformation, and I think some of it’s just there’s pockets of society that have found social media is a quicker way of complaining.”

One Hamilton school was recently given a blast online – but the school hadn’t been contacted about the alleged issue.

“It shouldn’t be the first time you hear of an incident, on someone’s Facebook,” St Pius X Catholic School principal Jane Rutherford said.

“The person [venting] didn’t actually give us a chance to deal with it.”

That left her feeling disappointed when she heard about the online rant and comments on it.

“Things happen at school. That’s the reality. But we pride ourselves here on the fact that we do stuff about it,” she said.

“If you’re mad about something then don’t tell the rest of the world, tell the people involved.”

A newsletter went out encouraging people to come to the school first, which a consumer behaviour expert said is exactly the right response.

People were more likely to approach organisations which were open to frank feedback, the University of Waikato’s Dr Rouxelle De Villiers said.

Otherwise, complaints might end up online for a variety of reasons, she said.

The first was simple: “People don’t like conflict.”

Some people felt they didn’t have a voice and, in contrast, felt like they were among trusted friends on social media.

“Facebook is a little bit like the inside of your car,” De Villiers said.

“Because it seems like it’s your private space and you’re really dealing with your friends, there’s less of a threat to be nasty or overly honest.”

But companies are monitoring social media to see what’s being said about their brand in the public domain so they can respond.

Calls for boycotts are quick to appear after a quick scroll through a Facebook group of just over 28,000 members.

There’s a call to avoid a cafe accused of workplace bullying and paying less than the minimum wage.

The original poster says head office will hear all about it, and encourages people to share the information.

Further down the page people are being warned off an air conditioning supplier, although it appears the poster made several attempts to contact them before putting the word out.

But sometimes the anger does get straight to the provider.

In Australia, supermarket chain ALDI faced a backlash after an online request for animal jokes unleased anger over the continued sale of caged eggs.

The group had recently been the target of a social media campaign on the topic, news.com.au reported.

So sarcastic comments appeared quickly when the company invited Facebook followers to comment with their best animal joke to promote the sale of its farmyard planters.

Screens could act like a barrier between a person and everyday life, University of Waikato senior lecturer in psychology Rebecca Sargisson said.

“The consequences of any behaviour are delayed – if anyone was offended or hurt by their comments, their response would come some time after the negative comment was posted, and research shows that delayed consequences are less effective in changing behaviour than immediate consequences.”

A Facebook comment could also reach many people, some of whom may like the post and therefore reinforce the behaviour, she said.

In contrast, people were more likely to “punish” an inappropriate comment face to face.

 – Stuff