Social Rage - The Psychology Behind Social Media

Admit it, we have all done it. While either driving or as a passenger, another driver makes a manoeuvre that displeases us and we see red. Beeping of the horn, shouting and gesturing to display our displeasure and communicate to the other driver we are less then impressed with his choice of action. It’s an all too familiar sight on our roads that we have come to know as road rage. Sitting comfortably within the security of our vehicle encased in two tonnes of metal we often feel far more confident then perhaps we might if face to face with our aggressor. So I got to thinking, could the same be true with social media when we use it to vent our anger towards a company or an individual because their service or actions have also displeased us? Is this perhaps a new form of rage – social rage?

The fact is people don’t act the same when they sit protected behind any sort of screen, be that the windscreen of their vehicle or the computer or mobile device they type behind. This all consuming anger that has built up within us, simply because the attendant at the supermarket checkout is taking just that little bit too long with the customer in front of us, or that delivery company that just can’t quite seem to get it right means we need to vent our frustration! What’s more we need to vent quickly and tell as many people as we possibly can about our terrible experience. What do we do? Simple, we reach for our smartphone or tablet and share our experience on social media. If we can, we now even direct it at the company or individual to expose their perceived failings. For if ever we needed an outlet, social media gave us that power almost overnight.

So why do people wish to share any negative experience in this way?

Well, it’s quite simple. The advent of the smartphone means that our various social channels are now with us, in our pockets, bags and jackets 24 hours a day. For many, it’s the last thing we check before we go to bed and the first thing we look at when we wake. So if we want to get something off our chest and I’ve seen many a Facebook post either starting with ‘Warning Rant’ or ending with ‘Rant Over’ we have, as they say, the technology.

If we are in a shop we no longer need to ask to see the manager, or locate the customer service area in a department store. We don’t even need to call for a supervisor because we can be assured of being heard and noticed, by many, the moment we hit ‘post’. Gone are the days of holding for hours on the phone too. We can now probably get a response within 15 to 20 minutes depending on the severity of our complaint. Social media has raised consumer expectations and we all wish to be heard and responded to immediately. We want and have come to expect real time customer service.


Now, no company wishes to be perceived as having bad service and many employ social media teams for this very purpose. Those teams are there to very quickly acknowledge, respond and protect that brands all important reputation. Business owners now know that their social reputation is just as important, if not more so, then their reputation in the industry or the market place. The problem is the customer knows this too and they will use it to their advantage to get noticed, attempt to get some form of discount or compensation and more importantly put off other customers from using the service of that company.


So what is it that makes us complain in this way on social media? Well, the downside of social communication is in being so accessible, so often when we vent we act in haste and in anger. In fact, if we had taken 5 minutes and counted to 10… ok 110, we just might not have phrased our post or tweet in the way we just did. The other reason, of course, is that we are protected by our screen, removed from that face to face confrontation and we are at our most powerful. Perhaps the third reason is that we love the sound of our own voice and we really, yes really, want to be heard!


For the social media teams the response is even more critical then the actual first issue, as it’s their job to pacify, empathise, give the required attention and assurance that the issue is being handled. The last thing they need is further ‘rage’ and an unwanted escalation, all of course played out on a public stage. Some companies will want to take this form of communication off line as this first instance by encouraging the customer to Direct Message (DM) or email them, but I applaud the company brave enough to address, resolve, explain and satisfy publically. It somehow gives us faith as an existing or potential customer that even if things do go wrong, this company will do what they can to put it right.

So while being faced with social rage can be a daunting prospect from a business point of view, put yourself in the customer’s shoes and take it as an opportunity to publically show just how great your business can be with its customer service.

Remember the key points, Acknowledge, Act and Resolve. Your customers will greatly appreciate it and so will your followers. Provide the value to your brand and service - and listen. After all, not addressing is probably what caused the social rage in the first place!

About James

James Biley is the Marketing & Communications Director for Countrywide Estate ManagementGranville & Company and HLM

The #BeMoreSocial column was created for Flat Living and its goal is to drive more effective communication within the property management industry.

If you have a story you’d like us to consider for #BeMoreSocial where you have been innovative in the digital space, share with us by tweeting @JamesBiley and @FlatLivingLoves using #BeMoreSocial.

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