A dark day for social media

Earlier this week the horror of the death of James Foley was brought to social media. I was shocked and upset by the way social media was being used. The brutal death was brought into the homes of millions of people. My thoughts are still with his family, friends and colleagues at what is a very difficult time.

The events also brought many aspects of social networking back into the spotlight. I have written before about the responsibility that comes with the power of being able to use social media. This was in the context of organisations and businesses who now have a way to directly connect with people. This was clearly true for everyone using social media this week.

People were shockingly sharing the video of the murder. Some will have been doing it because they can and some will have done it without realising that they have. A very small number may have been doing it to support the terrorist propaganda. It is important to remember that just because we can do things with the digital developments doesn’t mean we should. We have to be clear what we are doing and why we are doing it. This is important for everyone from the individual to businesses.

It is also not enough to say you didn’t understand how a social network worked. So, if you posted or reposted something then you have to take responsibility for that action. There can be no excuse of not knowing. If you are joining a social network then make sure you are clear about the security settings and that you understand what happens when you post something. Be clear about when retweeting will share a link, what it means and who can access it. Remember everything you post or comment on reflects on you.

Every one of us has a great power when we go on social networks. When you post something on Twitter, Facebook or whatever network you act as a publisher. You are the reporter, the commentator and the spectator. If you decide to say something then you have to understand the legal, social and moral issues attached to it. Social networks allow us all to be citizen journalists but with that power comes the responsibility. You would never see such footage on the television news so why did some people feel able to share it with the world?

If you were one of the people who shared the horrific video of James Foley’s death then perhaps you should think again about how you are using social media. Remember with great power comes great responsibility.

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Stand back and watch

Regular readers of my blogs will know that I am a strong advocate of the benefits of social media. I have written many times about the positive things it brings to modern life when it is used to good effect. I do accept that there are negatives associated with the use of social media and that it can put the spotlight on the worst of human nature. But even I had to sigh when I read a story in the local paper this week.

The article was a relatively low-level issue of a small caravan fire at a house. But the thing that made it much more interesting was that people were spotted taking pictures and posting them on Facebook rather than phoning 999 for emergency help. (http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/greater-manchester-news/onlookers-took-pictures-facebook-instead-7609838)

It made me think that if we don’t take care we will be using technology to distance ourselves from what happens every day in our lives. It is great to be able to capture moments using mobiles but when it means we are constantly hiding behind the phone then it starts to become an issue of concern. Some years ago when I was working as a local journalist I often wondered how war correspondents and others could stand back dispassionately when they watch disaster unfold. They stand back and don’t intervene. But this is what we are starting to see if people stand back rather than step in to help.

It is quite a scary thought that in a few years we might find everyone is documenting and photographic what happens without recognising the need to step in and help. Will people just watch criminals at work? Will they photograph those people injured or dying in road accidents? Will they snap people as they wait for an ambulance?

I really hope that we don’t get to this situation. If we do then we have lost the connection to what makes us human – caring and nurturing each other. The technology is great it means we can be in touch with the emergency services much quicker and we can connect with each other. But if we lose the central humanity of people then we ultimately are not making use of the facilities now at our fingertips.

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Looking through a new lens

For more years than I care to remember I have written statements about crime and have always thought I understood the views of victims of crime. That was until I became a victim myself a few days ago. It wasn’t the crime of the century but the impact it has had on my life is significant.

I woke to find my vehicle had a number of parts stripped from it. No-one had seen anything, there was no CCTV, and there were no forensic opportunities because of the heavy rain. Clearly, it had been stolen to order and there was nothing I could do to prevent it.

As many would say, it is just property, and they are right. But the cost of replacing the items is so much that it will involve an insurance claim. In turn this will, I am sure, mean an increase cost for my car insurance when it is next due. I am angry that while I work hard to afford things, somebody feels they can help themselves to what is not theirs. It is not this financial cost that has been the impact on me. The biggest issue is the mental stress it has caused. As it happened near home, it is unnerving and has made me unsettled. I am watching for every move and person near home. I feel as though my personal space has been violated.

I suddenly realised that I haven’t really understood a lot of what I have been doing at work. I haven’t understood the mental impact of crime on people. I have probably been dismissive of the huge impact¬†that crime and antisocial behaviour can have on people’s lives. What are we doing to help people when they have become victims? And when I talk about ‘we’ I mean the communication team. We focus a lot on encouraging people to come forward and provide information so that we can find the offenders and bring them to justice. We talk about providing ‘reassurance’ to people and communities when something has happened. But do we ever do anything to help people when they have unfortunately become victims?

It is easy to say that this is, or should be, the responsibility of the Victim Support service of other charities. But working in the police service provides us with a unique opportunity to be able to ensure that victims voices are heard. We can recognise the traumatic experience that people have been through, whatever the nature of the crime is. Above all, we have to be able to treat everyone as an individual.

I am very lucky that I am surrounded by wonderful family and friends who have been doing all they can to help me through this experience. Many are not so lucky. They may be alone, old or vulnerable. Who is there for them?

I know I will get through this difficult experience but one thing is clear it has given me a new lens to look through every day when dealing with communication about crimes.

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The survey says….

I have to admit that this is one blog post that might appear to be a bit of a rant. The reason is that I am sick of reading half-baked research and surveys about a whole range of things. But it is the ones that claim various things about social media that are the most frustrating.

There is one today in the tabloid newspapers about problems of low self-esteem and Facebook that used a survey of 300 people. Every day there is some kind of report claiming that social media is bad for us, or in a few rare cases that it is the best thing since sliced bread. I wonder what the purpose is of some of these small-scale inquiries?

My concerns are focused on how many people actually read these surveys and believe them. It is easy to get carried away on a sea of random statistics but we have to look behind the presentation to get to how the survey or research was undertaken. Was it from a particular viewpoint, does it have independence and who seeks to gain from the results? We all need to be a little more critical in our reading around survey reports.

It is increasingly clear that there are so many people now using social media that it will cover a whole range of human emotions, drives and experiences. Taking a small group and trying to define the experiences they have will only cover part of the story. For me, research on social media needs to be broad and deep which means it will take some time to clearly show results.

If we are going to conduct social psychology research on social media then it needs to stand up to scrutiny. It needs to be detailed, thorough and take place over a longer period of time or cover a much more significant number of users. There is still a lot to learn about social media but it is important to avoid the sweeping statements from the many surveys that are being reported.

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Are we in an era of the complainers?

Interesting to wake up to hear that customer satisfaction has fallen for the third year in a row according to the Institute of Customer Service. It made me wonder what was happening is it about the environment around us or about us as individuals?

There are a number of possible factors that I feel may be in play creating this rise in complaints about businesses.

Firstly, we have been in a recession or at least challenging financial situation for at least four years. Families and individuals are finding the cost of living rising and have been struggling to make ends meet. Wages have stagnated for many but prices have been continuing to increase. So, when we do spend any money we want to get the most for it and it has to be right. After all why should we accept second best when we spend our hard-earned pennies?

Secondly, there has been a huge growth in social media in the past four years and that gives people the means to be able to complain in a more direct way. In previous years you would need to make a trip to the shop or business to complain or post a letter or send an email. Now it is straightforward and swift. If you don’t like what has happened then you can tell the company on social media and not only do you tell them but you warn everybody else about the problems you have had.

Thirdly, are we living in a more angry and grumpy society? You could be mistaken for thinking this if you look at the activity on social media, or watch the vox pops on regional television news programmes. It could look as though things have to be perfect or we are going to make waves – loudly.

Finally, perhaps it is just that our expectations are continuing to rise. We don’t just expected the same for less outlay, we expected more. As businesses have been trying to reduce their overheads and outlay we as consumers are still wanting to receive the same product or service but not the same as we want it to be better, bigger, faster, smarter etc.

More importantly what can companies, organisations and businesses do in this ever more demanding world? I am not suggesting it is easy, because it is not. However, listening to complaints, developing on the basis of customer feedback, be swift to respond and adapt and ensure you provide a human experience.

For me, I think there are a number of factors happening at the moment and in the past few years that have created this situation. There is no quick fix or easy answer and companies have to be on top of their game all the time.

You can find out more about the report on the Institute of Customer Service website https://www.instituteofcustomerservice.com/10560/UK-Customer-Satisfaction-Index-UKCSI.html?utm_content=buffera8869&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

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Speaking a different language

Every day we speak to many people. It may be at work, home, picking the children up from school or at the local shop, but we will have a conversation however brief. But how much are we getting from this interaction beyond the words that are spoken? Can we spot body language that is telling us much more?

This week, I had a couple of occasions when I found some body language shouting at me. The shocking thing was that many other people just hadn’t noticed it or had chosen to switch off to what was obvious.

In the most significant situation I met a work colleague in the canteen one lunchtime. I hadn’t seen him for a long time as we don’t work directly together. It was one of those brief lunch meetings. Most of the time it is a brief exchange ‘how are you’, ‘ok’, ‘and you?’, ‘not bad’, and then we would go our separate ways. But it was clear that something wasn’t quite right. I exchanged the usual pleasantries and then decided to have a further conversation. What was clear was this was a person in crisis and in need of help?

What did I do? Well, nothing really I just listened. That was probably the one thing that they wanted but hadn’t had. Giving him a chance to just talk without me judging, advising or giving my opinion was an important opportunity. It wasn’t much but I wondered why no-one else had spotted this person in crisis. I wondered what his colleagues were seeing and why they hadn’t helped.

Communication is an important thing. It is fundamental to everyday life and is also one of the things we take for granted. But this is not just about the things we say there is so much more being said through our body language.

Would you be able to spot a colleague in crisis and in need of help? If you did what would you do?

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Social as a shared experience

We all know that social media is a way of having two-way conversations and sharing details and information. It has been this since day one and the more people who join the networks the more social it becomes. Human beings are social creatures and want to share experiences, events and parts of their life. It struck me the other day that this is well and truly embedded in our lives.

Watching television will never be the same again.

I was watching highlights from Glastonbury on television while my other half was sharing a running commentary with one of his friends via text message. At the same time I was commenting on Twitter and Facebook. I don’t sit watching the television with friends in reality but it is an interesting experience when done via social media.

Programmes like The Apprentice, Bake Off and Masterchef are always enhanced when I can see other people’s views of what is happening. It becomes a shared experience and the same as having a discussion down the pub or on a night out with friends. The joy is that we can do it any night of the week.

The World Cup has been enhanced by the fact that social is much more part of daily life. Four years ago it wasn’t in the same league. Now it is as natural for many of us as having a conversation, making a phone call or sending an email. It is the little details that we all notice that allow us to share the experience through highs and lows. Recent reports claim the World Cup is the most social sporting event that there has ever been. That is until the next big event.

As I sit with my laptop or iPad watching television programmes and sharing my views and listening to the views of others, I can’t help but think that there is more that could be done with broadcasters to develop the engagement with the audience through social networks. When we start to exploit this we will hit the next stage of social media maturity.

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