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Half Full, Half Empty or Red? Social Media with Whip!

Cup 2012

When I look at this retro (2012) Starbucks Cup, I can’t help but think this snowman knew what was coming. His wink is a clear indicator that the entire coffee cup “War on Christianity” is laughable. Back in 2012 did people see a snowman as some religious symbol? Not one of the Wise Men had a carrot nose.

Social media, it is the easiest way to create enemies of strangers and make friends or receive affirmations from  people you’ll never know. It’s a quick way to voice your frustrations while also an efficient way to raise your blood pressure. It’s a means of spreading your love, your hate or your ridiculous ideas around the globe with little effort.

I remember when grocery shopping with my father as a child or while waiting for a bus with my mother, that they often engaged in small talk with other waiting strangers. In Minnesota weather is a nice entry-level conversation but current events and political topics were not off-limits with strangers. These interactions allowed people to share and exchange ideas. One didn’t need to agree to remain cordial and even with more heated debates I recall there was a mutual respect.

Conversations with strangers while waiting in line has been replaced with interactions with electronic gadgets. Rather than look a person in the eye and tell them why you disagree with their position on an issue, we now opt to tap out curt opinions on keyboards of various sizes. This anonymity tends to let things escalate in a more rapid fashion. I envision old silent movie footage capturing live interaction of what transpires online today and it looks like this; one person makes a statement, the other person angrily refutes it with exaggerated indignant gestures and the first person gives a roundhouse punch to the eye of the person they are interacting with. There is no question and answer, no nuance, a bold confidence they are right and the exchange is completed. Bystanders take sides and offer thumbs-ups to the party they agree with.

The news media falls into the trap by frequently wanting to be the fastest (as opposed to most accurate) news source, the first to share a piece of information or detail. They also recognize the power behind putting out information that forms opinions to those who don’t actually dig into the contents of an article or question what is being told to them. An example of this, is that this week rather than watching the Republican debate I opted to spend my time working on a volunteer committee at my former high school. The following day I noticed a posting from NBC that attributed an inflammatory historical phrase to a current candidate. In the posted story, it indicated in fact that the candidate never used that phrase at all. Based on the majority of the responses, it was clear that most had only read the headline and not the article. I posted a clarification and questioned the quality of a news agency that would falsely attribute this phrase to the candidate and commented that the other posters who were making harsh commentary based on this falsehood had “taken the bait”. While over 70 people had affirmed that they agreed with me, I was also called a bigot, was labeled a supporter of the candidate and as I continued to share facts was ultimately told I’d “better watch yourself”. I’m threatened because I think it’s only fair that all candidates be accurately reflected by the media?

This is the year where one of our most “important” social media discussions was over the color of a dress, which we could all see both ways when posted side by side. It was as interesting as posting two Mustangs side by side and asking if you see a red one or a yellow one? Lets be honest, nobody was going to wear that dress anyway. So what was the big deal?

Dress

There have been two relatively major social media topics garnering attention recently; the Starbucks Holiday cup and unrest at the University of Missouri campus with #prayforMizzou trending most of the week. Oddly, it seems that the Starbucks cup has received the most attention, much of it claiming it’s a ridiculous ploy for attention, while others have actually staged protests. Some have come up with creative ways to fund raise or see that charities benefit from the “brew ha ha”. It’s likely some factory in China is currently churning out 2016 Halloween costume versions of the “controversial” red cup.

Meanwhile back in Missouri, we have had a hunger strike, a football team boycott and a presidential resignation over an excrement swastika that nobody has seen, nobody cleaned up, which was not documented, reported or photographed. Beyond that, in the midst of the emotion on campus we have students who as communications majors are wishing to document the ongoing events and other students who wish to prevent documentation of what is taking place on campus (not recognizing apparently the correlation between their concerns being shared in the media with the eventual resignation of the University President, which was their objective). To make matters stranger, the student body president began a social media panic by claiming that the KKK had been confirmed on campus and that he was personally working with law enforcement to keep people safe. Later he acknowledged that he had shared erroneous information and apologized. I see marketing potential for a children’s book series with titles such as “The Boy Who Tweeted Wolf”.

Don’t get me wrong, I love social media! I’m sure there were growing pains when the press was first invented, making sure things are accurate should be a basic aspect of any form of communication, new or ancient. Civility should be maintained when people exchange thoughts and ideas. I am an opinionated person and in addition to that I am incredibly sarcastic. Sarcasm works better in person than it does in writing and garners the best interpretation from those who actually know me. Typically, I tease those I know personally and am in opposition with politically and they goad me back. We’ll correct misinformation or discuss our insights on various topics, knowing that in most areas we will simply agree to disagree. At the end of the day we still “like” each other as human beings and even enjoy each others company as friends and neighbors.

We have nearly a year until the next elections and social media will play an even bigger role in this one than the last. That’s over 300 cups of coffee, that I will need to decide where to source from. We owe it to ourselves to dig a little deeper than Facebook posts, Tweets and newspaper headlines when making important decisions. I predict there will be at least one opportunity per week to be sucked into the vortex of a non-issue that some will see as urgent during this next calendar.  It’s not even possible to pretend to know what will engage people during the coming year. A year ago you couldn’t have predicted that the amount of air in an NFL football would be a hot topic or conceived what cat video would be the next big thing.  For all that we don’t know, I am confident that I will certainly interact with over 140 characters online that will be rude, call me names and share inaccurate claims that they will assure me are facts. I in turn will annoy over 140 characters with my commentary, sarcasm and genuine opinions. Twitter may only allow 140 characters but I’m open-minded enough to handle more.

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