The Social Media Team Is "just like you, fr"

It seems obvious, but people forget that those behind your favorite social media accounts aren't just PR-posting robots.

The Social Media Team Is "just like you, fr"
Photo by JESHOOTS.COM / Unsplash

In my decade of work dealing with communities online, I've inevitably had to deal with posting something to the userbase that might not be dealt with very well. Whether it's an unexpected maintenance or a change that could end up being polarizing or something else similar, there have been times that I've typed the copy, proofed it, then did that thing they used to do in cartoons where they turn and cover their eyes before they hit the thing that blows stuff up.

And when those replies come in, as they inevitably do, I've ended up visibly flinching at my computer, each snarky reply or upset post feeling like a little bit of a punch to the arm, or a slap to the back of the head. And over the years, I realized something.

Nobody actually sees that a social media team might be doing this as something unpopular they post gets the replies that it does. And why would they? Typing on a screen isn't like speaking to someone face-to-face, or even over a video call. You don't see someone's face change as someone types "this is the worst fucking update of all time and everyone on the team that thought of it should be fired."

It's very impersonal. And very not-human. And people forget about that.

It's funny because when it comes to celebrity following, like when I see it in K-Pop land, one of the most popular expression I see when an idol/artist does something relatable is "he/she is just like me, fr", whether that's something funny like taking a bit of a stumble or even something as trivial as...well, eating a sandwich.

Hyunjin from Loosemble is unbothered by dating rumors.

When we find it relatable and human, we find our empathy, and find it just a little bit harder to post horrible things. But that often doesn't happen for social media folks. To people, they're accounts, disembodied usernames, professional wordsmiths. It's a lot easier to take a verbal swing and feel like they're not like you. But from personal experience, I can tell you that they are, and feel just as bad about an unpopular change as you might.

I'll poke at Discord for an example of this. Recently Discord made what is generally being seen as an unpopular change to the mobile UI, which made a ton of changes that have been hard for users to deal with. And it unfortunately can't be reverted if you don't like it.

Now, don't get me wrong - that's not to excuse the validity of proper criticism. The change really has some things that have hurt the experience. As a Discord moderator I can't easily find threads, user lists, or navigate easily to messages, among other things. It's definitely frustrating. But, perhaps because I've spent hours looking at awful replies to things I've posted while working on social media, I'm less apt to go nuclear or post snarky things on something like, well, Discord's attempt to wish people a happy new year.

Hasn't stopped other people, though (and this is mild by most standards).

I think people just forget that continuously needling or screaming at a social media account ultimately means you're needling or screaming at a human or set of humans - ones that might very well be feeling the same things you are about something and can't vocalize it. Or worse yet, they know something is being worked on, or how much effort and human cost something takes, and have no choice but to take such comments on the chin (or ignore them altogether). Most social media and community management professionals have at least one story of how their peers (also humans, by the way) worked furiously behind the scenes on a solution to a problem while mob of online pitchforks and torches were being endlessly needed, without pause.

But maybe that's what's needed - people taking a beat, pausing, and understanding, before replying with their frustrations, that they aren't talking to a robot, but someone who might very well empathize or even be advocating (as many of them do) for them. Someone who wakes up every morning, rolls up their sleeves, and gets to work. Someone who might appreciate a better, more considerate way of being talked to - even if it's to say things aren't great.

Someone who really is like them - for real.

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