Let’s take it back to 2013 real quick. If you’re a real Twitter veteran, you’ll know about the famous #HasJustineLandedYet hashtag. Her tweet in particular became the number 1 trending topic and without her knowledge, the world was waiting for her arrival in South Africa. Before embarking on her trip, she tweeted: “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!”. At the time, she only had 170 Twitter followers, so I’m pretty sure she thought, much to her own idiocy, that her tweet wouldn’t really spark an outrage… buuuuuut it only just went viral for the whole world to see.

Of course, people started sharing it and while she was up in the air with no connection to the internet, thousands of people were waiting for her downfall. And journalists were waiting at the gates. In this particular instance, I don’t think she intended to go viral. It was very much about her own racist and ignorant thinking. Who would even believe that just because you are white, you’re exempt from catching AIDS? That’s a story for another time. But the main point that I want to talk about is… whatever you post online, whether you intend to get attention or it’s literally your own ignorance that clouds your mind, the internet never forgets.
So what is it that makes people go stupid for quick attention? Why are people willing to behave in a certain way and tweet/share things they probably wouldn’t say/do in person?
I’ve been on Twitter since 2010 but haven’t really used it properly until 2012. My addiction started during the Olympics when I was cheering on Mo Farah – and the rest (Facebook in particular) was history. One thing I’ve noticed since I’ve started using Twitter is how one single tweet can literally change lives. Either for the better (due to talents, hobbies, etc) .. or you can lose your job over it. Before it wasn’t this easy to go “viral” and now we’re seeing viral tweets every day and most of them are not worthy of any attention whatsoever.
I want to specifically write about Twitter on this post as it is generally the app I use the most every day and for the last 9 years or so, I’ve managed to keep my cool. But every day I have to fight the urge to reply to stupidity but I don’t want to waste any energy. Here are some of the contents that unfortunately go viral, which I will never understand.
Disrespecting/Bullying others: I’ve seen the worst of the worst on Twitter. Someone can simply post one selfie, completely minding their own business, and end up getting shamed and abused for their looks, disability, or even (and this is real), making rude remarks about pictures of babies. I’ve recently seen a tweet of someone posting a picture of a child they have no relation to, followed by a discussion on the colour of her skin. This man had no idea who this baby was but somehow managed to save that picture onto his camera roll, go on the Twitter app, and literally share it with his followers. How is this okay? I can’t even imagine my own picture or a picture of my child going viral because some dweeb decided to tweet something that does not concern him, and now thousands of people are sharing it.
People are also recording footage of others in public, whether they are on the street, on public transport going about their day, fights (especially ones involving school kids being bullied), or even people having mental breakdowns in public. We’ve seen it all.
What do you think would go through someone’s mind when they are being publicly harassed in that way? This is the same platform where users are tweeting about “self-love” and “mental health”. Are we on the same internet?
Sharing images of dead bodies: I don’t even need to explain this one. But we don’t need to be sharing images of dead bodies so freely. I’ve seen many popular tweeters who get off at sharing images about poverty, wars, and tragedies because they know those tweets are the ones that people will most likely share. God knows their true intentions, maybe they think it’s okay to be posting graphic content “for awareness”.
Newsflash: Did you know that you can still get your point across without sharing graphic images? Yes, there’s something called… using words to express your points. You simply need to put yourself in the grieving family’s shoes. If your loved one passed away tragically, would you want their body to be posted online?
Acting completely stupid in public: Did you guys hear about the latest trend? Licking ice cream in the shop and putting it back in the freezer? Drinking mouthwash and spitting it back before leaving it on the shelf? Yum. People really did that and thought it was a great idea to post it online. I’m assuming this was happening in the States because I don’t think we have unsealed ice cream over here in London. But what was the need to do this?
Reckless marketing ideas: You know when people say having a diverse company is important? This is probably why. H&M caused a complete outrage over one of their campaigns after showing a young black boy wearing a top that said: “Coolest monkey in the jungle”. Heineken did it when they had an ad that showed beer being slid across a table passing three people (all of whom are black), to a lighter-skinned woman. The tag line read “Sometimes lighter is better.” Chance the Rapper took to Twitter when the ad came out:
“Social media has encouraged companies to produce something controversial which may appeal to the younger audience who may then be happy to share the material online.” Kathleen Mortimer, a professor of marketing and entrepreneurship at the University of Northampton. (source)
There are loads of examples of brands tweeting/sharing controversial campaigns to gain attention because let’s be real – “Bad publicity is good publicity”. Anyone with any sense sitting in on their marketing meetings would not allow any of that to run. I know damn well I wouldn’t let that run as I am experienced in social media management and marketing for brands. I would find it offensive and wouldn’t want to do it. I guess if it doesn’t affect you personally, then “Why not cause controversy online? We’ll just tweet out an apology anyway!” The outrage will come, yes, but guess who’s getting thousands of hits on their website during this outrage? You’d hate to see it.
People want to generate more attention regardless if they are doing bad or good. They’d rather get bad publicity than no attention whatsoever. If it’s this bad now, I don’t know where we’re heading.