The tyranny of trial by Twit­ter

Campaign Middle East - - PARTNER CONTENT -

I think it is time we stopped wor­ry­ing about what so­cial me­dia says. I re­ally do. Like most peo­ple work­ing in a de­mand­ing, fast-paced en­vi­ron­ment, I am get­ting pretty fed up with the un­set­tling no­tion that any­thing I do will be scru­ti­nised, an­a­lysed and crit­i­cised by le­gions of peo­ple with noth­ing more to do than be un­pleas­ant for the sake of a few megabytes of fame, in the hope that they could notch up an ugly mi­cro-vic­tory that would jus­tify their poi­sonous on­line ex­is­tence for a few min­utes. It is one thing to have a crowd-sourced watch­dog when you are in the ser­vice in­dus­try or in man­u­fac­tur­ing, and to be made ac­count­able for what you pro­vide your cus­tomers with, but quite an­other when the watch­dog be­comes a posse of bark­ing Rot­tweil­ers, hell-bent on feast­ing on a mis­placed comma or what­ever is the cause du jour.

It seems that, today, ev­ery­thing you pro­duce – not to men­tion your cor­po­rate be­hav­iour – has to have lev­els of per­fec­tion that would make the Pope con­sider in­stant canon­i­sa­tion. Any­thing be­low that ne­ces­si­tates the im­me­di­ate field­ing of a throng of lawyers, fol­lowed closely by writ­ers who will add an­other 20 pages or so to the terms and con­di­tions that you are sup­posed to sub­scribe to.

What­ever the arm­chair ex­perts-in-ev­ery­thing will say, this ac­tu­ally de­feats the very pur­pose of the in­ter­net, which, I seem to re­call, was the ex­change of in­for­ma­tion that can im­prove hu­man­ity. Im­prove, my back­side: for one thing, so­cial-me­dia self-ap­pointed vig­i­lantes are forc­ing the en­tire busi­ness land­scape to be painted with a brush so beige it would make the Sa­hara look lush, with opin­ions be­ing close to ex­tinct and cor­po­rate lingo be­com­ing as en­light­en­ing as that sticker on the peanuts pack that says “Warn­ing: con­tains nuts”.

It is all fear. From the fear of lit­i­ga­tion that the age of con­sumer pro­tec­tion brought, we have moved grad­u­ally to fear of words. At one point, there was some­thing com­fort­ing in the fact that you could ask for opin­ions far fur­ther afield than your im­me­di­ate cir­cle, and that these opin­ions would have a pos­i­tive im­pact. It meant that shoddy man­u­fac­ture, poor ser­vice or low safety stan­dards wouldn’t go unpunished, world­wide. Now, how­ever, the in­ter­net is so crammed with neg­a­tives that we are grad­u­ally cre­at­ing a whole in­dus­try aimed at ap­peas­ing or just shut­ting up the nay-say­ers. An in­dus­try built on dis­claimers, legalese and in­se­cu­rity. An in­dus­try whose bud­get would be bet­ter spent on R& D, and whose minds would find more re­ward in lis­ten­ing in­tel­li­gently to what peo­ple say rather than sit­ting pet­ri­fied at what they might crit­i­cise.

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