Social Media Flame Out Part II- What I learned.

The sharp eyed will notice that even the reasonably well composed tweets from Part I  had a particular aspect to them – the “.” in front of the “@” removed all filters from the tweets.  So instead of just blasting CVS I was blasting to all of my followers + CVS.  This was actually intentional, because that is what I had seen done when people I admire on Twitter attempt to take down some offending part of The Man that has transgressed over their line in the sand.  Make no mistake – I had that “on blast” as they say.  Unashamedly so.  A kind soul DM’ed me to inform me that I was doing that thing with the “.” and pissing off my followers.  He reminded me to breathe, and at that point I realized that not only was I out there wild and uncontrolled on the internet I was effectively doing it wrong.

The ridiculousness of that moment  grounded me more completely than any response from CVS could have.  I didn’t accept right away that the battle was over – it took a few minutes of nervous-flutter clicking and half-seriously debating a complete retweet of all of them before I cleared the field in defeat, tweeted a funny picture about “Punk Being Dad” and vowed to not interact with Twitter for the rest of the day.

It was also here I remembered I’d been up periodically with a sick child the past three nights, that sleep deprivation and various feelings were probably contributing to the fact I was that aggravated.  I decided to chuck the rest of the day as completely as I could and went to bed.

Two hours later I woke up with a start much like Dorothy did when her house landed in Oz. A sample of my internal monologue:

“That happened,” I thought to myself.  “I made an ass of myself on that level in front of the world.  This is why everyone hates social media! This is the end of me.  I’m going to go on Twitter and there’s going to be a  mocking hashtag of this event.  My phone’s voicemail is going to be full.  I bet someone at Gawker is preparing an expose article on how diabolically stupid I have been.  No one will be talking about US Airways after this one.”

Lesson One: On social media, only the people who actually know you are going notice what you do.

Including the tweet from one of my co-workers, there were precisely four responses to my Scorched Earth Tweet Freakout of 2014.

1) @grizfisher favorited my response to his tweet.

2) A friend of mine responded with an emoticon to my later apologies.

3) The kind soul with the DM.

The tweets, though annoying, were about .001% of what was happening on twitter alone at that point.  I lost precisely 1% of my followers which takes me back to the point I was over the weekend.  It’s not that I don’t love that 1% and regret their loss, but it’s hardly the end of the world.

Everyone’s heard of things going viral – effectively what happens when your stupidity (or brilliance, the knife cuts both ways) hatches and grows wings.  But there’s an extraordinary intersection of luck that contributes to that.  You most likely have to be messing with the actual twitter account of a name brand business.  It has to be sincerely offensive to at least one person, which was unlikely in the case of CVS.  While my time on the internet has taught me that there is someone out there who will argue for anything and anyone at any time, militantly Pro-CVS twitter followers are  going to be few and far between. I got lucky that whoever that was yesterday was out getting lunch when my time on their screen came up.  And then finally, what you’re sharing  needs to be actually be interesting enough to retweet and draw attention to.  Your odds of becoming the next sensation are small.

But, lesson two is remarkably similar to lesson one.

Lesson Two: On social media, only the people who actually know you are going to notice what you do.

I have managed up until this point in my life to fly reasonably below the radar with my ability to fly off the handle under circumstances of extreme provocation.  You have to basically  live in my home or be my boss for an extended period of time before something like that will happen.  And even then you’re pretty likely to agree with me in my own assessment of what went wrong.  However.  NOW PRETTY MUCH EVERYONE KNOWS.  I have no ability to erase that whole episode and again, only people that I deal with in the real world are going to have noticed it.  The Venn diagram of oops, while overlapping not terribly with the world’s major media outlets, overlaps amazingly well with people I’d rather not have got involved.

As we are only about 48 hours post-event I cannot say for sure whether this will have harmed anyone’s long-term impression of me enough to hurt my employability.  I sincerely hope not, but there’s always a stray chance.  I cannot say for sure, because I don’t read minds, whether I have altered anyone’s long term impression of me enough to sincerely change whether they’d want to do business with me.  Again, I sincerely hope not.  As that which is done cannot be undone unless you were using gmail, there’ll be that chance for quite a while.  I will sit with that.

In the interim, let me reiterate what I said here:

Lesson Three: There are good people out there who don’t know you, and they’re watching out for you.

I trash talk the level of discourse on twitter at least once a day.  Yet the truth is that the Kind Soul who tweeted me directly and told me to knock it off could have not done it.  It was time out of his day, I was complete stranger, and there we were.  But he did it anyway.  That brings me  to why I’m not swearing off social media completely and forever.  Yesterday, someone looked out for me.  Today, I looked out for someone else- in a different way but still as part of a community.  For the moment I find the give and take of that process more valuable to me as a person – and in the long term to my brand – than total isolation.

P.S. I’m still waiting for a response from CVS.  When it comes I imagine it will sound something like, “Well, now, I bet that hurt.”

Social Media Flame Out Part I – Self Immolation

I can say honestly that I didn’t head into this episode with the intention of having a learning experience.  Or a quasi-journalistic one.  But in retrospect it’s embarrassing, and what else can you do except keep an embarrassing incident alive by dissecting it?

The Backstory

It should surprise none of my European readers (otherwise known as my in-laws)  that there are still  deeply profitable corporate loopholes the US’ health system.  One of them is prescription drugs.  As it happens, my prescription drug plan is owned and operated by one of the larger pharmacy chains, a place called CVS.  The obvious conflict of interest between making money on selling drugs and making money deciding what drugs should be dispensed and when should bother EVERYONE, but it doesn’t.

CVS’ power base is in the Eastern US.  It would make sense for someone selecting a drug plan in, say, Endicott, NY to think that there was nothing wrong with having to go pick up the odd prescription there, as they’re healthy thriving mini-grocery stores in that part of the country.  Outside of that corridor, they are something completely different.  About 10 years ago CVS purchased a local pharmacy chain called “Eckert’s” and as far as I can tell, promptly forgot about the entire group of them existed.  The result is that Texas’ CVS locations are wretched places, filled with foul smells and disorganization and desperately incompetent people.

To further complicate the situation, the way you refill  a prescription here is that the pharmacy sends a request via FAX to your doctor..  Most doctors won’t deal directly with a patient request for a new script, with the rationalization that the pharmacy probably knows best when they last a request for the same drug.  It’s part of a control system, and it also saves the doctor. having to chat with their patients every time they need a refill.

I have been fighting with the local CVS pharmacy for TWO YEARS to change the erroneous fax number they have for my doctor in their system.  TWO YEARS.

It has come to the point where I actively delay getting prescriptions.  I don’t have the time or energy to get angry with CVS for not having faxed a prescription when it was requested and not coming to the phone when I call them to explain why they didn’t do it and could they please pretend to do it again?  This fight has devolved several times into my calling the general manager of the store and complaining about  the head of the pharmacy department.  In short, please believe me when I say that I have paid my debt following the traditional means of complaining about a business.  Still the number is unchanged.

The Event

Tuesday I took my daughter to the doctor and discovered she had strep throat and a nasty ear infection.  There’s something about officially being diagnosed with being that sick that makes a child look as though they’re about to keel over.  It was in that vulnerable state that I brought her with me – as a solo parent I have no choice in these situations-  to pick up her antibiotic.

In retrospect a lot of what happened on this particular visit is not strictly the fault of CVS.  My daughter was wearing a princess costume and tiara that drew a lot of attention.  There was an acutely mentally ill man in the waiting area picking up a script.  My daughter kept lifting up the skirt of her dress and the intersection of glances between the three of us scared the living hell out of me.

In the backdrop, however, there was as always, a generalized chaos and the smell of body odor combined with unkempt bathroom wafting all over the pharmacy area.  The employees were busy arguing over something I never quite got the gist of but involved a diagnosis code and a problem because one was missing.  And we were waiting.  Waiting. Waiting. Waiting for these antibiotics and another script I had been foolish enough to think I could request and get in the same trip.

The mentally ill man got up and said what I think was, “Are you the lop-eared rabbit?” to me and I snapped.  Not at him, but at a combination of my daughter for her skirt antics and at the world as a whole and CVS in particular for just BEING there and serving as the pot and the broth for this shit stew I was stuck in.

Our drugs became ready.  We paid- NO I DON’T HAVE A CVS EXTRA CARE CARD- and we left.

Where Social Media gets involved.

My general policy when it comes to anger and my social media properties is the following.

1. Rant openly to your friends on Facebook. Show no mercy. Be creative.

2. Rant directly towards corporations on Twitter- without swearing – when provoked.

3.  If possible wait an hour to cool down before #2.  Does not apply to Airlines.

4.  Mop up the negative karma generated by #2 and #3 by taking the time to praise good customer service when it happens.  Applies double to Airlines.

You can tell here that I’m still operating under the fallacy that Facebook is private and Twitter is public, but in general I’m able to keep my dignity by following these rules.

Not so much here.   By the time I settled down into my chair to start working for the day I had, to paraphrase Ron White, “Spiraled into a dimension of pissed off I have never before been to in my life.”  I still knew I couldn’t swear personally,  as my twitter account is publicly  linked to my employment.  So I went a slightly different direction, which I’m going to call “Scorched Earth and Retweeting Swears”

I begin by establishing my Bona Fides:

At This point you can tell that I’m still pretty organized about the whole thing. Read: I’ve announced the format of my rant and I’m sticking to it.

Because who doesn’t want a HIPAA violation pointed out on the internet?

Things slide out of hand beginning with my attempt to blame others for my attack of bourgeois paranoia over the mentally ill man picking up his meds and talking to me.

At that point my rage at both the store and myself blinded me and I forgot exactly how long I had been dealing with this incompetence.  The time got cut in half because in that moment there had never been a point in my natural life where I had not been fighting with CVS nor would there ever again be a time when I wasn’t.  I was the F-16 and the fighter pilot of time’s air force.

And now we build to the crescendo, where their total lack of answer to what at that point had been a pretty square rant drove me to suspect – correctly that I was talking to a brick wall.

And trust me this is where anyone following this at all would have lost any sympathy..  Because what I did then was search “CVS sucks” and retweet every single universally applicable tweet with that phrase in it dating back to 2008. I have no idea how many tweets this actually was and while I’m not above dissecting my bad behavior I’m not self-actualized enough to know the facts in that exact a detail.

And then we hit my favorite moment in any internet argument that I’m not a part of: CAPSCAPSCAPS.

And then I waited. On CVS. Again. Nothing.  Not so much as a disdainful referral to another account.  Not so much as a burp..

So I again, further alienating anyone who had until that point hung on out of some distant memory of when I used to tweet anything of value,  repeated the search with”CVS blows” and retweeted the same volume and history of tweets.


So in Part II, I apologize and we discuss this as a learning experience.