Let’s get it trending!

I like Twitter.  I like it a lot.  I probably spend more time looking at it than I should.  One of the best things about it is that you only follow those people you want to; there’s no need to listen to the opinions of those that are not of interest, unlike in real life.  Following, un-following, re-following – these are all natural processes, unlike Facebook, where un-friending people is a serious business and is tantamount to phoning someone to let them know that you do not like them any more.  There are many reasons that I begin to follow people and also many reasons why I stop following people.  Top of the second list is when someone informs me of something cute that their child has just done/said; closely following this is the title of this blog: “let’s get it trending”.

Social networking allows us to become activists, albeit in a very minor and totally non-committal manner.  An activist is defined as an especially active, vigorous advocate of a cause but Twitter (and to an extent Facebook) mean that we can be activists (just for one day).  There are those that dedicate their lives to a cause, but “Let’s get it trending” (LeGiT) is a the most banal, lowest effort and least likely to sway opinion method of activism.  It usually requires the individual to press one button.  Unfortunately, given the large number of people on Twitter and Facebook, the thoughtless pressing of a single button by numerous individual fingers allows an issue to ‘trend’ for a short time on Twitter, or clog up our Facebook feeds before it dies away, only to be forgotten. 

Just one example: #stopkony became a popular hashtag on Twitter following Jason Russell’s film.  People were falling over themselves to press the retweet button, to do their part to save those ‘invisible children’, to feel better about themselves for becoming part of the movement to rid the world of the evil warlord Joseph Kony.  Has Kony been stopped? No.  Is he in prison? No.  Ironically enough, Jason Russell has ended up in prison (before Kony) after a bout of ‘reactive psychosis’ caused him to strip naked and masturbate in the streets of San Diego.  #stopkony doesn’t trend any more; people have moved on and the Twitter activism has had no effect.  Such is the way of things and no real change can be brought about when, deep down, people don’t really care about an issue.  When large number of people care, change can happen.  When small numbers of people care, or large numbers pretend they do by pressing a retweet button, nothing happens. 

Multiple changes of Facebook statuses represent another form of pointless, low-effort activism.  There was a Facebook campaign recently where we were all encouraged to change our profile pictures to our favourite cartoon character, all in the name of bringing an end to child abuse.  Really?  How exactly was this going to work?  Was the sudden appearance of lots of Droopies, Scooby-Doos and Pink Panthers really going to make child abusers think twice?  Of course not, it was to raise awareness that child abuse is a bad thing; but I suspect that we were all aware of that anyway.  In reality, it was a fun way of getting people to think they were doing something for a cause.

Gary Barlow and his wife recently lost their baby Poppy.  This is horrendous for them.  They should be allowed the privacy to grieve in private.  Instead, we get Louis Walsh demanding that we all retweet his own sympathy “to show respect”.  Twitter glows with the hashtag #rippoppy.  Feels rather tasteless.  I showed my respect by leaving them in peace.

A young person is suffering from terminal cancer.  “Their final wish is to end up trending on twitter” is the quote.  This really happened.  Surely this is more than a little undignified.  No charity link, no suggestions for donations, no page directing you to offer condolences.  Just the retweet button, for the simple sympathiser.

The knee-jerk reaction: most recently to the Olympics.  Michael Vaughan (he should know better) claims that we need 1 hour of sport per day in Schools – “LeGiT”.  Of course we do.  No need to think about the sold-off playing fields, the early finish in many Schools, the lack of competition infrastructure, the existence of sports clubs, the difficulty with employing qualified sports coaches for 60 minutes per day, the cost implications, the equipment implications.  As long as the tweet is written, then retweeted by millions, something must happen, won’t it?  After all, we’ve done our bit for the cause and can rest easy.  We’re all activists now.

Time to post the link to this blog – “LeGiT”.