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Screaming Until You Can Hear Me

Everyone is probably aware by now that Amazon was selling a book about how to be a good pedophile, Twitter exploded with angry tweets about it, and after many hours (and promising that they wouldn’t take it down), Amazon waved the white flag and removed the book.

And certainly, fighting the good fight is a form of social action, but frankly, my ears are a little numb from all the good fights (last week alone, amongst the small flare ups, I was also asked to get angry at an airline, a plagiarizing magazine, and the verdict in a trial).

Whatever happened with first trying to deal directly with the company or person?  I don’t mean an email or two.  I mean, deal directly with the company for a reasonable amount of time.  I have a great deal of respect for the United Breaks Guitars band because their vocal protest against United — involving the rest of the world in their personal problem with the airline — came after a year of back and forth with the company.  United refused to listen to them, so they took it public.  And suddenly, United heard them.  But before they involved all of us, they tried to solve it on their own.

Many times, we are jumping straight into Twitter or Facebook and using these incredibly powerful tools to organize.  And yes, it gets things accomplished — but what is lost too?  And what important messages aren’t getting heard because there is so much noise; our heads are being yanked to attention several times daily.  At some point, we’re going to start missing important things because we’ll have social action fatigue.  Many of us already do.

It’s a little bit like the boy who cried wolf, except that it’s more like the social media user that cried, “charge!”

Which is not to say that the call for action isn’t usually a worthy call for action, but when it happens every single day, when I’m asked to add something to my profile picture or change the colour of it every single day, it means that people may stop hearing the word “charge.”

In D.C. last weekend, there was a carrotmob put together by Jews United for Justice.  For those unfamiliar with the concept, it is the opposite of a boycott, using the “carrot” or the enticement instead of the “stick” to beat a company into submission.  A company is rewarded and business driven their way for showing exemplary behaviour, in this case,

A Carrotmob is a method of activism that rewards businesses for socially responsible actions, channeling customers to companies with good practices. Teaism, the winner of the DC Carrotmob, provides 5-7 sick days to ALL of its employees.

In other words, instead of only shouting about what businesses are doing wrong (and believe me, while that book was disgusting, it’s hardly the only disturbing book on Amazon’s site), equally using social media to point out what businesses are doing right.  Instead of only writing about other bloggers when you’re pissed off about something they’ve written, using your blog to highlight bloggers who write things you like.

It’s about owning your power.  Because social media is a powerful tool.  And it can be used to fight the good fight.  And it can also be used to have voices ring out in praise rather than anger.  And when we have both happening, we have something multitonal and interesting.  And when we only go in one direction, either with anger or with praise, we miss out on all the directions social media can take us.

Where do you stand on the social media (Twitter, Facebook, blogging, etc) storms?  Do you think there are too many or have you never noticed them because you ignore trending topics on the sidebar?  I challenge you to use your power within social media for good today and tweet about a business or person who is doing something right.  And then come here and tell us about it.


1 Heather { 11.18.10 at 7:57 am }

A lot of times, I ‘m a great ignorer. But when something really digs at my morals/values, I may dip my toes in the water of injustice. I think one has to draw a careful line, though—getting involved in every single controversy for the sake of social media “action” is not good, or healthy, or wise.

2 Rachel { 11.18.10 at 8:54 am }

This is the post I’ve been wanting to write for awhile now. I definitely do not like how easy it is for the “mob mentality” to develop with social media. One person doesn’t like something and turns it into a comical whirlwind – likely forgetting the experience within a week or two.

From now on, I refuse to use brand names when I’m unhappy about a product or customer service or whatever. Rest assured, I will talk about positive experiences without hesitation.

3 myinfertilitywoes { 11.18.10 at 9:27 am }

Thanks for challenging us to rise above it all and use public-facing media for GOOD things! 🙂

4 Melody { 11.18.10 at 9:34 am }

I love this! The LBGT Target boycott seems to have been largely ineffective (ie. no public apology forthcoming about their donation to an anti-gay marriage candidate). I wonder if it would be more effective if, instead, some business was driven toward a company that’s particularly supportive of our community. Hmm. Need to do some research.

5 a { 11.18.10 at 9:57 am }

I’m not a huge user of social media, but I am a firm believer in contacting a company to let them know that there’s a problem. In about 90% of the cases, I get a very positive response. To me, the social media route is like using a sledge hammer when all that was needed was a nudge.

I really like the idea of the Carrotmob, though.

6 aisha { 11.18.10 at 10:30 am }

Amen. Its a powerful tool- the ability to channel the “internet” towards causes and should be used carefully. I personally have been in touch with Amazon multiple times over the past few months over many issues I have had (they carry some things that are scams and are put out by third party vendors) but A doesn’t really care about putting out known scams, etc unless a fuss is made- its sad, but true and bc/ i’m huge amazon user- i’m at a crossroads as to what to do.

Carrot Mob is AWESOME

7 Lori Lavender Luz { 11.18.10 at 10:31 am }

Oh, I love this so much. And that you spotlighted Teaism is just perfect.

I would much rather hear voices in praise than voices shouting, and I would much rather lead the former, too. I would love living in a world where the former garners the attention and the followers as much and as easily as the latter.

8 loribeth { 11.18.10 at 11:55 am }

It’s so true that we are quick to criticize, but often neglect giving praise where praise is due. Thanks for the reminder, Mel!

9 Katie { 11.18.10 at 11:57 am }

I love this post. Thank you for challenging me to give praise today! 🙂

10 Melissa G. { 11.18.10 at 12:37 pm }

Truly fascinating post, Mel. It made me think of the time when Dooce threw Maytag under the bus because of the issues with her washing machine. Though I will say she seemed very aware of her power, and didn’t use it until she reached her wits end.

Also interesting timing because I recenly called out my phone and cable supplier on Facebook. But I’ve been dealing with their nonsense for five months now and still haven’t gotten anywhere… And only my 101 friends saw me post about it – not quite the same as writing a song or having an audience as large as Heather Hamilton.

I also used to work for a large Home Improvement retailer and I can’t tell you how many contractors threw out the ” Do you have any idea how much money I spend here- now I’m never coming back!” over something as simple as a denied $20 return. You’re right about how people stop hearing “charge” after a while… I noticed the managers seemed a lot less inclined to accomdate the customers who threw tantrums instead of trying to work out small issues.

And I have to say that I really love the concept of the carrot mob. Absolutely brilliant. I will do my best to use this method in the future.

11 Brenna { 11.18.10 at 12:46 pm }

I’ve never heard of the carrotmob concept–I love it! Brilliant post. I enjoyed reading it and will begin thinking of a way to highlight something positive very soon.

12 HereWeGoAJen { 11.18.10 at 1:09 pm }

Huh? Trending topics? Yeah, I admit that I know they exist, but I use a Twitter gadget on my iGoogle page, so I don’t see them.

I rarely participate in things that ask me to change my profile picture or the like. I don’t think they usually do much good.

13 Chickenpig { 11.18.10 at 1:53 pm }

I love the carrotmob concept. I have waxed poetic at times about certain products that really helped me (our Fisher Price swing, for example. It was the ONLY thing that allowed N to sleep, so the motor burnt out at 6 months. FP sent out a whole new motor assembly free of charge within days.) I totally forget about the bad or useless things or bad books. We all have a right to complain to a company for poor service or product quality, in fact customer complaints are a the major way that problems get corrected, but why complain to everyone else? Unless someone asks me a direct question about something I just can’t see tweeting or blogging about it.
I think I have posted one thing on my status on FB and I promised I wouldn’t do it again. I don’t think that posting my bra color or purse location will make anyone become more aware about breast cancer.

14 Bon { 11.18.10 at 2:47 pm }

interesting. i get taking stuff to Twitter – it’s validating to share outrage. but i think in the longrun it will deaden companies to respond when they should. i’d like to see more carrot-mobbing.

15 unaffected { 11.18.10 at 3:43 pm }

It’s hard for me to really voice an opinion on this matter, as I doubt that any of us are privy to all the facts. Who knows if the offended actually did contact the company first, or at least attempted to?

16 Mic @ IF Crossroads { 11.18.10 at 5:38 pm }

I have a FB “friend” who has been slamming her ex-husband all week long (they are going through a custody battle) and getting her 400 + friends all riled up along with her. Yesterday, when her kids weren’t returned to her by her husband in a timely manner, she posted a google link to his parents home address, where he was with the kids, and asked for “BIG” men and women to back her up with cameras. She was going there to get her kids and she wanted people to show up as witnesses. Then, this morning she posted that she neded$750 for an atty because she was suing her husband and asked for donations. All this was done as status updates. And really it kind of made me sick to see all of this personal stuff being spewn forth on the internet, in public, for everyone to see.
There is a bit of oversharing these days – and people do use the internet to scream a bit too much.

17 Mali { 11.18.10 at 7:01 pm }

Great post. I love the carrotmob concept. I don’t Tweet, but I am going to tell my friends about the great Morroccan restaurant I went to last night. Word of mouth … old-fashioned, but also effective.

18 Toni { 11.18.10 at 8:06 pm }

Personally, I pretty much ignore social media activism altogether, at least when it comes to writing about it myself. If I feel strongly about something, I do something about it personally, donating, signing a real petition, etc.

Things lose meaning when they’re overdone, and writing a status update or adding your name to an online petition is easy. There’s no strive, passion, or self sacrifice involved. I’m not saying that everyone who gets involved via social media doesn’t care greatly or make sacrifices nor that you have to sacrifice something to care, but when you can lend your support to half a dozen causes in an hour, you do start to lose sight of what you’re really fighting for and get a little desensitized. Plus I’m a huge believer in only speaking up or supporting something I’m well informed about. I won’t impulsively jump on a social bandwagon unless I know what I’m supporting, but a lot of people don’t feel the same, which to me, trivializes the cause.

This is not to say I wouldn’t get involved via social media if I felt strongly enough; I would just choose my battles carefully.

19 Roccie { 11.18.10 at 9:02 pm }

Mel, any thoughts on how to differentiate our efforts from the slacktivism that is so rampant in FB?

My personal efforts fall flat. “Ew. She is talking about her uterus again.”

I would love to know how to promote things effectively without becoming another Pink Cancer Bullshit item.

20 Barb { 11.18.10 at 9:24 pm }

I actually agree with you 100%. And I love L.L. Bean. 🙂

21 Bea { 11.19.10 at 10:36 pm }

I, er… haven’t really noticed them much. I guess it’s for people who have worked out how to accommodate facebook into their lives properly. Or maybe it’s because there are so many that I automatically screen it out like junk mail most of the time (although I just checked and facebook seems fine for me at the moment on that front). Or maybe all my friends are jerks who don’t care about anything?

But I think you’re right – it shouldn’t be a first port of call, and will lose its potency if it becomes one.


22 coffeegrl { 11.23.10 at 4:02 pm }

I’d never heard of a carrotmob. Neat idea. I’m with you on the United Breaks Guitars guy. I think doing your best to handle it through the appropriate channels and then going public is a totally reasonable approach. And I loved that song & video!

23 Anne { 11.25.10 at 1:53 am }

Call me bad or anything but I used FB to post my rant on a certain group also in FB. I ranted my dismay on the group that I believe I am also belong to be in. My rant is for the people who are admins or creator of the group although I didn’t mention. It is my way to call attention to them. The group is set to private so I cannot intervene and with my post, they have read my rant.

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