I’m well aware that there is a huge amount of cyber bullying going on out there, particularly with our kids, but that’s not what this post is about. Not entirely anyway. This one is about people using social media as a weapon to bully brands and service providers into getting what they want.

We’ve all heard the story about the blogger at a Blogher event who threatened the Crocs shoes rep with retribution on her blog, waving around her legions of followers as a reason to give her free shoes, and there are a lot of these stories, more every day. “”Ya know, if you don’t give me shoes – I could totally write something bad about you on my blog.”

Or the mega Twitter user who spoke the magic words: “Do you know what Twitter is? Because I have over a million followers on Twitter.” against a Maytag customer service rep.

Today I was talking with a volunteer at a local cat shelter. She had helped a client connect with a lovely cat, told them the cat might need some adjustment time and sometimes cats get the sniffles when they’re stressed–like moving to a new home. She went through the several pages of agreements and such and spent over 2 hours with the client so they would understand all the potential challenges of adopting a rescue.

As luck would have it an issue developed with the cat and the volunteer had given them her email, so instead of contacting the shelter they contacted her. They proceeded to demand that she personally solve the issues and just to add that extra weight to their influence they informed her that “We’re tracking all of this on Facebook” implying that if she didn’t solve it they’d be talking about her personally with her neighbors and trashing the shelters reputation to boot.

She never even had time to offer to resolve it before he brought out the heavy social media artillery. This means that any resolution can be perceived to be because of the threat, not just because she did the right thing. I happen to know her quite well. Trust me, she would have done the right thing and she did.

These are not at all unique stories. Everybody seems to know one. We’re becoming a culture of instant gratified “or else” and even litigation over interactions on social networks is common. When did we become so rude? Just because you have access to social media doesn’t give you license to swing your social network around like a mace.

Some things never change. There are trolls out there still who love to vent their inner curmudgeonly spleen on anyone within reach. We all know at least one. But what is your personal perception of the person who is constantly complaining and throwing their weight around?

That’s right, you think they’re jerks.

Well, unless you ARE them–and if that’s the case, this message is specifically for you– social networks go both ways.You may think you can use your network as leverage to get what you want but your network sees that too. They’re watching. Sometimes it backfires on you to be obstreperous with a brand your network thinks highly of.

How do you want people to perceive you? How do you think people perceive the people in the examples above? Can’t we just all get along?