Engadget tries to cope with the nasty side of social media

Engadget is one of the very popular websites/blogs that reviews the latest electronic gadgets. It’s very popular with the gadget set and has lots of viewers and commenters.

I’ve been working on a draft of an article for a major PR publication about incorporating social media into communication plans, particularly into crisis communication plans. And one of the points I try to make is that it is necessary to understand the social media culture. For some of us, it is almost like going into a foreign country with its own language, traditions, values, norms. There are some serious dos and don’t in this culture.

Engadget, who lives and breathes in it, is clearly struggling with how to deal with two very strong aspects of this culture. One is that it tends to be very nasty and ugly. The rage that apparently so many mostly young people feel is barely below the surface and it comes out in almost everything they say. It is shown in incredible levels of disrespect, vulgarity, cynicism and name calling. I think those who act this way would be surprised to have it called out because to them it appears to be perfectly normal. It is the way they talk, if not in their daily lives with their friends and family, then it least in their online personas.

The second element is complete openness and transparency. Anything that is seen as an effort to restrict the completely open, unfettered expression of personal opinion is deeply offensive. Anything that is less than completely honest and transparent triggers that rage.

Engadget is trying to navigate this stormy water with a post about the Verizon Storm that apparently created a storm of nasty comments. Here is there reaction, and then the commenters reaction to that.

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