On a Finnair flight from Helsinki to Rome, I held a business class ticket which was purchased from American Airlines, with this leg of the flight being on a “partner” airline. Despite the flight being more than three hours, it didn’t actually have any business class, and so I received coach class seating and service.
Not to make a big deal of it, but the cost for business class is substantially greater than coach. It wasn’t that the flight didn’t get me to Rome. It did. It wasn’t that flying coach was horrible. It wasn’t. It was that I paid for business class and didn’t get it.
So American Airlines and I had a chat, to the extent one can have a chat with an Airline, and, after going back and forth a few times via their online communication mechanism, the finally reached their conclusion: We have your money, you’re screwed. By the end, they gave up trying to explain why, because they had no reason whatsoever, and just dumped the bottom line on me: Nope. We won’t refund the difference between business and coach for that flight. Because we don’t have to and you can’t make us.
They were, of course, correct. There was nothing legally to be done about their failure to deliver and refusal to do the right thing. So I made the decision to embarrass AA publicly for their actions, and took to the Twitters. Up to now, this is backstory to the post.
I made a decision to use social media to go public with my complaint for the purpose of embarrassing AA. Sometimes, a business will change its position to avoid the public embarrassment, as did KitchenAid. Other times, not. But it was still my choice to take this course of action.
While doing so, a random person on Twitter who apparently follows me decided to insert himself into my stream with American Airlines by sending this twit:
Now, this is some random person on twitter. No horse in the race, unless he’s being paid by AA to cover its butt, who gratuitously decided to stick his nose into my beef with American Airlines and cut me off at the knees. Why, I wondered, did my decision to take this course of action compel him to actively seek to undermine me?
So I asked, and he told me:
@ScottGreenfield You had a problem you wanted resolved. I felt you were going about it the wrong way and spoke up. …
This is the random asshole dilemma. The nature of social media is that every asshole who so desires has the ability to see what you’re doing, and the ability to speak up if he so chooses. Hey, that’s the nature of the beast.
But why? Because he “felt” I was going about it the wrong way? You mean, someone was wrong on the internets and so it was your duty to correct them?
There are a lot of people on the internets. No matter what, someone will think you’re wrong. They may be right. They may not. But someone will always disagree with what you’re doing.
But the question is whether there is a sufficient need for someone who has no interest in the outcome, no need to cure the stupid, no financial stake, to randomly insert their feelz into what someone else is doing, for the purpose of burning them.
I don’t know this twitterer. Yes, I can google him just as you can, but that’s not what I mean. Is he some flaming nutjob? Is he an airline vigilante? Is he just one of the millions of busybody morons who don’t have enough to do that they need to insert themselves into matters that have nothing whatsoever to do with them just to undermine what someone else is doing?
He didn’t need to approve of my decision to take to the Twitters. He didn’t know what happened before he stuck his nose in, and his sensibility of how best to handle the matter doesn’t dictate my choice. But his deliberately trying to undermine what I was doing, which didn’t involve him at all, was what turned him into the random asshole.
It’s not that I suggest silencing the random asshole. That would have deleterious consequences in many ways, and keeping the format open to all is far more important than suffering the random asshole who just can’t stop himself from sticking his nose in for no purpose other than to screw up what another person is doing.
And that’s the dilemma. Social media is replete with random assholes. Of the millions of people online, you can bank on someone doing something inexplicably stupid, with no purpose on their part other than to screw you up because they, in their infinite wisdom, would handle it differently.
So the only answer is to think to yourself, “don’t be the random asshole.” Don’t insert yourself into someone else’s business just because you can unless what you’re trying to accomplish is to undermine whatever they’re up to. You may disagree with how they’re handling things. You may not have a clue why they’re doing what they’re doing, because you don’t know the background, so you have this impulse to put in your two cents for kicks.
But that makes you the random asshole. Don’t be that random asshole. No matter how much you feel like someone is wrong on the internets, if it doesn’t involve you or any real interest that demands correcting, don’t be the random asshole.