Whether you get your news through thought pieces, editorials, or gif-based ‘listicles’, the past year has undoubtedly been dominated by Brexit, the #MeToo movement and that pesky rascal Donald J. Trump.
Whilst the sheer volume of these stories is enough to make anyone slip into a state of anxiety-based catatonia, it’s undeniable that social media is one of the most powerful tools in driving social and political movements.
Is this a good thing? Or are we heading for a desolate Terminator-style future where ‘Twitter birds’ and ’Snapchat ghosts’ serve as our mechanical overlords?
That rhetoric may be a little bit intense but when the future is already tomorrow, societies tend to fear that their way of life is suddenly susceptible to extreme change. So, when social media is seen as an essential influencer on global opinion and action, how do people react?
This week, several social media services were banned in Sri Lanka as anti-Muslim violence hit the streets, enflamed by extreme online hate-speech. Moreover, in the US, following Florida’s school shooting three weeks ago, students form the school have created an impassioned protest movement powered by Twitter and the personalities of its young leaders. One student, 18-year-old Emma González, commands a 1.2 million+ Twitter following, over 600,000 more than the official account of their target, the NRA.
So even beyond Brexit and Trump, social media is continuing to prove itself as the newest world superpower, a force simultaneously capable of spurring progressive change and riotous violence.
The #MeToo and #TimesUp movements were born from social media and their recourse have been felt swiftly and dramatically over a short period of time, with titans of industry falling from grace in Herculean fashion. Social media movements are now translating into real-world action using public figures and events in order to spur results. Anyone can now change the world with a literal swipe of their finger.
The attention these movements received meant that the spotlight placed on ‘International Women’s Day’ was magnified this year. Over the course of a week, Twitter mentions of the day reached over 5 million. At one point, it was the second biggest worldwide trend on Twitter. What was the number one I hear you say? ‘International Men’s Day’. This is where the true dichotomy of social media politics is exposed.
According to Newton’s (unofficial) third law of social media, ‘for every action there is a reaction’. This ‘counter force’ can sometimes be equal to or even bigger than the original movement. But the proof is in the metaphorical pudding: it’s all good to assume your destiny as ‘keyboard warrior’ and moan why there isn’t a day dedicated to men, but did 5 million of those people protest in the street about it on Thursday night? Well that’s exactly what 5.3 million people did in Spain’s first nationwide “feminist strike”. Arranged to mark ‘Women’s Day’, it was intended to protest domestic violence, sexual discrimination and the gender pay gap. Their slogan? “If the world stops, we stop”.
The strike was a corporeal manifestation of what happens when movements translate from tweets to actions. The 5 million mentions and 5 million strikers eerily mirror how voices on social media is now starting to equate to people taking action in their daily lives. Thinking of starting a revolution? Remember to create a hashtag because it will be televised, filtered and live tweeted.
This Week’s Top Social Stories
Rumours say Instagram might soon be launching voice and video calling features. Read more
Facebook could become a Google-owned Youtube through new licensing deals. Read more
Twitter is testing integration with outside buying platforms, so advertisers can buy space programmatically. Read more
Facebook Messenger Lite now has a video chat feature. Read more
Twitter has promised to crack down on cryptocurrency scams on the platform. Read more
The Twitter account of fast-food chain Wendy’s is known for its sassy tone. This time the brand called out McDonald’s on its announcement fresh beef will now be used in some burgers. A series of images of limp and lifeless burgers quickly proved their point. Looks like Wendy’s won’t stop serving social media burns any time soon.
A Dog’s Dinner
Craft beer makers BrewDog made a serious faux pas just before International Women’s Day. Their Pink IPA was meant to highlight the gender pay gap – being 20% cheaper than its blue-labelled equivalent. But the appearance of creating a ‘beer for girls’ was a turn off for most social media users.
Lacoste has released a line of polos swapping its iconic crocodile logo for ten endangered species. The number of shirts made corresponds to the number of each animal left in the world. The concept has hit home with fashionistas and animal lovers alike. It goes to show, risking brand recognition to make a point can be worth it.