A few days ago I wrote about the Twitter Bubble and the Culture of Outrage. Barely 24 hours later, another Twitter controversy has erupted and possibly gotten one woman fired because of a tweet. Ace of Spades has a good write-up here.
The theme I see in this incident, Phil Robertson’s comments in GQ, Paula Deen, and others is that companies/networks are too-heavily influenced by social media reaction. When people can instantly and, in many cases, anonymously say they’re offended and declare threats of a boycott, companies react too quickly in an effort to appease the social media mob.
In the case of A&E suspending Phil Robertson, the network was so wrapped up in thinking the frenzy whipped up by GLAAD was real that they made a decision that will ultimately hurt the network’s bottom line. Regardless of how the negotiations shake out between the network and the family, many supporters are already avoiding merchandise sold by A&E. The network is now finding out that their actual viewers accept (or, more appropriately, should forgive) Robertson’s comments. A&E made the mistake of believing that Twitter was real life.
The next time a controversy erupts companies should wait for the dust to settle before giving in to the social media frenzy to DO SOMETHING. Likewise, fans of the accused should focus on forgiveness and not feel pressure to defend someone’s public relations missteps. We can support someone without giving in to the frenzy to make everything a political fight.