‘No civil discourse, no cooperation; misinformation, mistruth.’ -Chamath Palihapitiya
I first wrote this blog in response to the backlash Andie MacDowell faced after one of her tweets made headlines.
Twitter blew up. There were those who supported her and those who did not.
This isn’t the first time a celebrity or brand has been at the centre of a misunderstood tweet or social media post. Here’s what we’ve noticed when it comes to backlash:
(1) people are particularly mean when they don’t use their real names.
Shocking? No. Not at all. For a few reasons.
Little do they know that it is not. Secondly, you should never assume that just because you use a fake name online that you are safe, nor that your privacy settings will help when screenshots are involved. Have you ever heard of the group ‘Anonymous’ and the Amanda Todd case?
(2) Quick to jump on the bandwagon.
Many of these insults were things these individuals would never to someones face (and probably not hers.) In elementary school, you may remember teachers talking about this effect on the playground. It’s when one person decides to pick on another kid and then others just jump in without knowing what’s really going on or having an understanding of the consequences. As soon as one person jumped in with insults, the rest followed. With each reply they got more nasty (trying to outdo the last) not realizing that the retweets and likes are not worthy of celebration because they’ll be forgotten. Yet, the potential damage to the person or company at the centre of it will not.
(3) Slow news days make it worse.
I was on Facebook when this story popped up in ‘What’s trending’. There were headlines like: “Andie MacDowell Rants: I Was Downgraded From First Class to ‘Tourist’ Seats” and “Andie MacDowell hits Twitter turbulence after complaining of being bumped from 1st class” and “Andie MacDowell’s Twitter complaint to American Airlines backfires”
The media outlets who covered this ‘story’ put it together from a few single tweets. This (make no doubt) drew more people into the online back-and-forth, rather than squashing it.
(4) A regular person probably would have had more support.
The truth is, if she were an everyday person and not a celebrity, people wouldn’t have questioned her complaint; in fact, they would’ve likely turned the tables on American Airlines for their sub-par customer service. And if you use Twitter & fly, you’ve likely done just the same.
Celebrities just get nailed by this stuff, because for some reason, they’re not supposed to have opinions about anything.
(5) Real people defend.
The people who defended Andie, more-often-than-not, were using their real names. And there were a lot of them. Of all the comments, this is what I saw most (paraphrased):
When you pay for a first-class seat, you expect to get a first class seat. Who in their right mind (celebrity or not) wants to pay $2000 for a seat, but will settle for one that’s $400?
(5) intelligent people shut it down.
Despite some truly nasty comments, Andie kept her cool and reacted very gracefully to shut things down. When it was evident that some people weren’t thinking logically but fighting dirty, the plug got pulled. A good reminder that some people are just on social media to fight; if you feel like you’re engaging in a conversation that is for this purpose alone, you need to virtually walk away.
While social media may not have made us meaner, it sure makes it easier to be mean. Some troll every day, while others just get caught up in the excitement. Social Media has given us a quick and effective medium to share messages, whether it’s a kind one or not. What happened to Andie could happen to anyone. Ultimately, we make choices on how to react and engage. We should take a page out of Andie’s book: be constructive, be diplomatic and know when to hit that block or ignore button.