Choose your targets
An entire generation has been trained to use social media when dealing with poor company service. This is not necessarily a bad thing. I was cheering Angelica Panganiban on when she complained on Twitter about poor service from a local cable company. On my end, it took two months of unanswered phone calls, emails and paperwork to cancel a subscription held by my late mother. If Panganiban’s celebrity status helped her get some much needed service, I was encouraging rather than envious of her because she seemed to have done her part as a patient customer before publicly complaining.
Yeng Constantino complaining about “poor medical care” is a different kettle of fish. I won’t dignify her entitlement and willful ignorance with a column about why her “vlog” about an unsatisfactory experience in a medical facility in Siargao was illegal, thoughtless, self-absorbed and privileged. We all know that an insincere apology is in the offing. I want to talk instead about this era of social media complaints, and how we ought to be picking our targets.
We know the drill: A wronged customer fails to make headway by dealing with a company and resorts to airing frustrations on social media. The post goes viral. The company apologizes and steps in to help. Customer service in the social media era relies heavily on preventing the damage that one single viral post can make.
It’s the nature of social media that news doesn’t just “blow over” anymore. One complaint can turn into outright boycotts. Complaints enter the news cycle over and over again, even long after a company has taken corrective measures. How quickly they respond to a complaining tweet can make all the difference. Maybe this wouldn’t be the case if companies could promptly and considerately handle complaints channeled through conventional routes. Instead, we’ve been trained that what phone calls and discreet emails can’t achieve, a tweet can quickly deliver. It’s a form of public blackmail, when companies decide how generously to respond based on how much traction an online complaint can generate.
Complaining about poor service from a company is one thing. Complaining about medical service is different. For one thing, so many complaints are made against facilities which are already overburdened, understaffed and struggling with poor resources. If these complainants are hoping that a big corporation will make its apologies and swoop in to kiss their feet, they’re in for a big surprise. It isn’t that complaints are unimportant, but it’s easy to recognize when the complaint is legitimate and when it’s being made out of ignorance or contempt; it’s also easy to spot when the person at fault isn’t the medical staff but the rather larger context of our health system. Frontliners are not to blame. Publicly eviscerating them on social media doesn’t get you any points. Hospitals are not airlines that will offer you a complimentary flight.
Secondly, those who generate mistrust against legitimate facilities and physicians are only contributing to problems that health workers all over the country combat every day, which is poor education and mistrust of evidence-based medical care. At best, like Constantino and her ilk, they might paint doctors and nurses as lazy, ignorant and uncaring; at worst, doctors are painted as money-hungry monsters willing to take advantage of every patient who walks in the door. It’s a disservice to the entire profession, and a largely ignorant one: nurses and junior doctors are among the most underpaid and overworked professionals in the country. Resident doctors in private hospitals scrape by on stipends that are, to be honest, below the minimum hourly wage. And social media would have us believe that these people are monsters for grabbing a few minutes of sleep while on 36-hour duties?
I wish these complainers knew how many patients end up dying from bogus “cancer cures” because they mistrust physicians. They ought to be held accountable but never are. Good thing public health advocates don’t have the time to vlog about them in return.
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