Facebook + News = No

by - April 25, 2013

In this digital age that we live in, social media is the wave of the future.

My station has a Facebook page and Twitter account in addition to our website. That's not counting all of the reporter Facebook and Twitter accounts. The other day I entertained (briefly) the idea of creating a station Pinterest account.

I've talked before about how our audience craves a constant stream of information. Social media just feeds that craving.

I post stories to our website and then share the link to our Facebook page, which automatically posts as a Twitter update. Throughout the day our reporters, producers and web masters are also updating all three of those sites.

We get a lot of clicks on our website. However, comments aren't plentiful. We're lucky if we get one or two per story on a good day. Our Twitter handle has plenty of followers, but as far as feedback goes it's mostly limited to retweets.

Our Facebook page, on the other hand, is a beehive of activity 24-hours a day. Some days that activity is limited to likes. Other days our fans feel compelled to comment. On the worst days they attack one another, use profanity, are vulgar and seem to forget their decency altogether. Unfortunately, the worst days are the most common.

I don't know what it is about social media that makes people go crazy. I guess sitting behind a keyboard all alone empowers you to type things you would never say to a person face-to-face. Suddenly all that matters is that so-and-so said something you don't agree with and you feel the need to call them an idiot (or some other choice word) and start a fight that has nothing to do with what you're commenting on.

Then the moderator - a.k.a. me - has to step in and delete your comment(s). Sometimes entire threads have to be taken down because people get so out of control. And it never fails, as soon as we delete something, we get accused of censorship and violating First Amendment rights.

Earlier this week, one of our fans posted a comment about the poisoned letters that were sent to some of our nation's leaders. Her comment suggested that it might be some type of conspiracy theory. It in no way hurt anyone or violated our terms of use. However, two other fans decided her "stupidity" should be pointed out rather harshly. They tried their best to start a fight with this woman, calling her a moron and a nitwit. When their comments were removed, they turned hostile towards us. They couldn't understand why we don't tolerate name-calling or arguments on our page. In the end, both commenters were banned.

Unfortunately, this trend is all too common. Multiple times a week I find myself babysitting a thread on the station's Facebook page because our fans simply can't act right. They believe the First Amendment gives them the right to say whatever they want, wherever they want, whenever they want.

Very few of them know how to disagree in a polite way. A multitude of them take any comment that doesn't follow their way of thinking as a personal affront and go on the defensive. It's ridiculous.

If I were to comment on your Facebook page, or even your blog, and you didn't like my comment or it offended you, you'd have every right to delete it. The same holds true for the station's Facebook page. Our terms of use are posted visibly at the top of the page. Often, we post them as a status update to remind our unruly participants that their behavior won't be tolerated. I wish I could say that worked, but it doesn't.

The power of the keyboard mixed in with social media news sites is a volatile combination. Seven times out of 10 the commentary on a story that's posted has nothing to do with that story. Instead, it focuses on one or two comments that are being picked apart.

Newsflash, people. Just because you don't agree with someone's opinion doesn't mean they didn't have the right to express it; just as you have the right to express your differing opinion. There's really no need for rudeness or name-calling. Just respectfully disagree with one another and move on. It's just a website, and as long as your comments meet our terms of use, you can say anything you like.

Still, as the news world becomes more and more internet-focused, I don't see this problem ever going away. As long as we keep giving people the opportunity to weigh in on the stories we're covering, we'll remain open to the whims of the public.

One day it's all likes and positive comments; the next it's World War III: Social Media Blowup.

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  1. for serious.

    I've gotten into a few of these arguments with people before on various things on facebook and you're so right. People would NEVER say these things in person. Which is such an awful way to use facebook.

    I feel for you. At least you're getting paid to babysit them masses.

    I wish people would understand, like you said, that the First Amendment isn't absolute. First of all its YOUR DAMN PAGE>> you can delete what you want!! Duh. What's really funny is that these people actually are monitoring the conversation enough to actually REALIZE a comment has been deleted. Seriously.

    Good luck and stay sane!

    1. I think some of our fans do nothing but refresh our page every few minutes. Get a life! ugh

  2. ugh. this is so frustrating. it is just as bad as nasty comments we bloggers sometimes get. UGH!!!! humanity can be so disappointing. seriously!