The tyranny of trial by Twitter
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.