I’m still reading This is Marketing from Seth Godin from the previous post. Reading Seth’s work is usually helpful to me when I insert “weather” for whatever other product he might be talking about.
A few weeks ago a story from my market went somewhat viral. A woman had been banned from the parking lot of a local Walmart for driving around in a motorized cart while drinking wine from a Pringles can.
The ridiculousness of the story was obviously of interest. Local media reported it. Word spread, and outlets across the country reported the oddity and there was a level of uncomplimentary comment on social media, all in fun…of course.
Locally some people began to talk about capitalizing on the event, even calling for a citywide wine and Pringles festival to draw attention and visitors to the town. That idea was certainly doomed to fail because the origin story would eventually be scrutinized. The woman drinking from the Pringles can was, thankfully, never identified. Had she been we certainly would have learned of some trauma or mental illness that led her to that situation. Eventually the festival, or whatever celebration of the sad story, would have been called out for making fun of the victim.
Seth writes about the work of Roland Imhoff, who studied conspiracy theorists. In short, Imhoff’s work suggests that conspiracy theorists often times don’t believe the theories they espouse.
Now, I’m jumping around, stay with me. I think I can bring it all together.
I detect a rise in pushback against online trolls. Meteorologists going on TV or online and responding to trolls who complain about an interrupted TV show or a busted forecast… all in fun of course, or sometimes in anger. That kind of noise has always existed but has gotten louder thanks to the the ease provided by social media. The trouble I see is the de-evolution of our responses.
Standards often do not go out in a blaze of glory. They erode slowly over time, sometimes imperceptibly. Twenty years ago would that angry letter about the missed show have been read on the air? Probably not, but it surely would not have been made fun of.
Social media, for all the good things it can do, is weakening our standards of communication and decency.
Trolls are seeking attention. Don’t give it to them, particularly in the name of entertainment. Their actions may be feeding “a deep-seated need for uniqueness,” or they might have a problem that has them on the edge of opening a bottle of wine and a can of Pringles.