By Emily Erickson
I’m what I like to call a “silent observer” on the Sandpoint Rant and Rave Facebook page. I’m subscribed, but do not post or comment, or even allow new content on my newsfeed, making any engagement I have with it intentionally sought and willfully perused.
If it’s not obvious, the Rant and Rave page is a public message board on which people air grievances and share positive reviews of their experiences within the community — akin to Ben Olson’s “Barbs and Bouquets” column here in the Reader (albeit, far more unruly).
The structure of the forum is simple: any member may share their thoughts as long as they keep it local, leave out politics and avoid solicitation. Posts and comments in violation of the page’s guidelines will be removed by the administrator, but everything else is open for discussion, argument, agreement and all the murky territory between.
I gate my participation with this page, because, frankly, it makes me uncomfortable. As a naturally gossip-averse person, a forum half built on the foundation of people’s complaints could easily leech into my already tenuous worldview. It’s a space where people are bolstered by the protection of their computer screens and their lack of proximity to the individuals and establishments they’re critiquing; their perceived anonymity lending itself to boldness at best. But, despite the page’s propensity toward ugliness, I’m a subscriber because I think it’s important for our community.
Ranting and raving is, at its most basic, doling out public shame and praise — a practice as integrated into our society as we are. Shaming is a social tool for establishing the rules, both explicit and implied, within a group, and holding members accountable when they break them. It has the power to impact how we view ourselves; our identity being partially defined by our interpretation of other people’s opinions of us (which is why we wake up in the middle of the night and ruminate on our decades-old shameful experiences).
Praise is the other side of this coin, positively reinforcing behaviors we want to see more of within our society. Its function is not to create a boundary around what we shouldn’t do, but to set a standard for how we’d like others to act. A rave is a signal to members that a person or business is doing things the “right” way and therefore upholding the collective values of the group.
Recently, the Sandpoint Rant and Rave page has been a hotbed of shame and praise for local workers at the Domino’s pizza franchise, underscoring the unwritten rules about how we treat and consider service industry establishments in our community.
A waterfall of posts and comments about Domino’s seemingly started with two separate rants about the respective customers’ experiences with order and delivery accuracy, and the attitude of employees tasked with rectifying the situations. The posts were aimed at drumming up collective admonishment and validation around a customer’s expectations when ordering food. The result, however, had the opposite effect.
Domino’s customers, service industry employees and general pot-stirrers came out of the woodwork to defend the establishment — turning the attempted shaming by the ranters back on themselves.
Supporters of the business highlighted the incredible customer volume and staffing issues plaguing every restaurant in our community, calling for patience and understanding for occasional less-than-perfect customer experiences — and not just at Domino’s, but anywhere a person is expecting service right now.
They shared their distaste for the ranters publicly airing their negative experiences (despite it being the “point” of the page), firmly aligning with and grouping together all the businesses simply doing their best to keep up with the demands of a rapidly growing community. The line of “a customer is always right” was re-drawn in real time to offer leeway to employees and businesses stretched to the ends of their abilities.
The Great Domino’s Debate was an opportunity for us to work through and reestablish the rules of our transforming society, or, as commenter Gayle B put it, “A lot of us just took offense when our local establishment was attacked and decided to share all of our good stories. It’s what we do in Sandpoint. We watch out for our neighbors and try to find the good vs. the bad.”
Although I won’t be signing up for push notifications from the forum any time soon, I appreciate its function and will continue to silently observe the messy shaping and reshaping of our community, one Rant and Rave at a time.
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