The “Road House” Guide to Social Media

December 16, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

If you’re alive and breathing, chances are you’ve been flipping through the channels to get the weather and ended up losing two hours of your life because you ran across “Road House” on TV and were unable to turn away.  I think TBS’ official slogan is now “The Road House and Hunt For Red October” channel (go look now – one of them is certain to be on).

“Road House” coasts on the the zen-inspired, coolly self-assured charisma of “Dalton” (Patrick Swayze) who provides a perfect illustration of the difference between being Assertive and being Aggressive in responding to threats to one’s reputation online:

Aggression is unwarranted (even when you’re in the right).  Assertion is prudent.  The *textbook I use for my Interpersonal Communication class has a helpful way of contrasting the two:  “To be assertive is to make requests, ask for information, stand up for your rights, and generally pursue your own best interests without denying your partner’s rights. […] Being aggressive means pursuing your interests by denying the rights of others.”

Assertion without aggression is the essence of Dalton’s philosophy for handling inebriated bar patrons:

“All you have to do is follow three simple rules.

One, never underestimate your opponent. Expect the unexpected.

Two, take it outside. Never start anything inside the bar unless it’s absolutely necessary.

And three, be nice. If somebody gets in your face and calls you a [expletive], I want you to be nice. Ask him to walk. Be nice. If he won’t walk, walk him. But be nice. If you can’t walk him, one of the others will help you, and you’ll both be nice.”

Underestimation of ones opponents has been the downfall of many an institution – and with access to social media, the chronically-underestimated have never wielded so much power to communicate (there’s probably another analogy here between being drunk with alcohol and drunk with the power granted by social media).  In stark contrast to the conventional wisdom, the web is packed with highly-intelligent, highly-resourceful, and highly-motivated people who can (and will) make things miserable for you if you’re not playing fair.

Taking it outside, t00, is key.  One must participate in the threads of conversation where they live, because it’s rarely the case that it happens within one’s sphere of control (which is one of the reasons the other two rules are so important).  Another reality is that audiences are so fragmented and siloed that it’s impossible for a single online channel to reach a sizeable chunk of the population.

Being nice is perhaps the most important rule of all.  Being nice is the right thing to do.  Being nice can soften an embittered position.  Being nice builds credibility with everyone watching the interaction so if the other party in the conversation steps out of line – it shows.

So engage with social media.  But be nice.

*(Beebe, Beebe and Redmond.  2008.  Interpersonal Communication: Relating to Others)

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