The older I get, the more amazed I am at how easily a mob can form and how easily that mob’s actions can go from mildly amusing to horrifying in the bat of an eye. It lends the same feeling I remember having when reading Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery, that something just wasn’t right even though everyone (except the hapless victim, of course) seemed to think it was all OK. I have often found internet message boards, even the most seemingly innocuous ones, to display this same type of mob mentality.
In the internet world where emoticon smiley’s of “Me too”, “ITA” (I totally agree), “Yeah, that”, and the nodding up and down fellow prevail, I see far fewer emoticons used that say, “Oh please!”, “Give me a break”, “No friggin way” or “This is just so wrong” on the mostly female boards I frequent. The female mind likes solidarity and will seek it out as often as possible. When it settles on a positive topic, all is well but when things turn south, nothing could be uglier. I am frequently irritated to read a thread that starts off by invoking what seems to be legitimate sympathy or pity but which later morphs into a cacaphony of screeching females outraged that the original poster hasn’t taken their advice and reported back on the outcome. All that lovely compassion somehow took a very wrong turn. Another type of ugly mob thread is the angry customer thread.
Recently, a very popular fitness instructor collected pre-order funds for a series of workouts to be released in 2006. We weren’t told when in 2006 these workouts would be delivered but those of us who have purchased from this particular vendor in the past have experienced a 6-8 month window from purchase to delivery. The vendor refused to lock into a timetable, citing instead the difficulties involved with such a complex project and advised those who were anxious about parting with their funds under such circumstances to NOT DO SO. The discount offered for pre-ordering was substantial. Many bit. Fast forward four months and no workouts and no pictures from filming and the crowd has grown restless.
“Where are our updates??” they cried. “Why hasn’t filming begun yet?” they screeched. “You OWE us, your customers, all this information so cough it up.” OK, so I can understand impatience at what seems to be some delays and so too did the vendor so she put out a message that said, “Sorry, we’ve been busy with holiday vacations and the star’s injury, but we’re looking at starting back up again Jan 6, 2006.” Not good enough. Now cries of “Foul!”, “Poor customer service!” and “I want to cancel my pre-order and get my money back!”, rise up from the angry mob. And then things really get ugly.
One member of the crowd yells, “She better not be spending my money on Christmas presents!” which is heard by the lady 3 posts later and reinterpretted as, “I’ll bet they are having cash flow problems; I’m getting out. I won’t tell you what to do but don’t come crying to me when this company goes belly-up like Other-Company-That-Was-the-Worst-Excuse-for-a-Small-Business-Ever did!” The lady 5 posts after her then exclaims, “I’ll bet she and her customer service rep are probably playing good cop / bad cop. I can just see them cackling and plotting over their postings from same computer keyboard.” Then out come the pitchforks and large stones. The Lottery has begun and the scapegoat chosen.
The ironic thing is that when these workouts are released, these same women will then pay 50% more for them (because they cancelled their pre-orders) and then bitch about how poor the dvd quality is or how dull as dishwater the workouts are and how they will never purchase one of her workouts ever again. Then 6 months later, when the next pre-order is announced, will proudly gloat about how low their invoice number is because they purchased in the 1st hour of the sale. Even more ironic is I am not talking about any one person’s words or actions in entirety, but if the “mob” were but a single person, this is how ridiculous and pathetic she would be acting. Hell hath no fury like a woman who thinks she’s being gyped…with the exception of a group of them bound together by the internet into a raging PMS tsunami!