The power of social media phenomenons

David After Dentist is a two minute video in which a young boy shows the disorienting and hallucinogenic effects of dentist related drugs. This video has coined many catch phrases like “Is this real life?” and “I can’t see anything”. This hard hitting footage has received 113,929,695 views, and counting. The video The Sneezing Baby Panda, the title is fairly self explanatory, has currently received a unbelievable 145,513,679 hits. This reveals the massive power of the internet, and social media, that has become ubiquitous in modern society. R U OK? Day clearly epitomises this trend.

Beyond the ability to spell the name of the event, the internet has also allowed this day to become widely popularised. The concept is to “break the ice and get people talking openly about their mental health” by simply asking “Are you okay?”. SANE Australia argues that stigmas regarding mental health are deeply entrenched in Australian society. However, when an opportunity to become part of a social media phenomenon arises, people are happy to disregard their usual predisposition (as long as it makes for an insipid and probably superficial status update). In fact, the R U OKAY? Day twitter account has over 8,000 followers, 209,ooo people like their facebook page  and celebrities like Hugh Jackman and Libby Trickett have endorsed the event. It seems as if the opportunity to find a creative way to spell the name of the event has overshadowed the core concept of the day. I don’t mean to criticise this movement, as it has probably saved lives, but it exemplifies the power that engagement through social media can have as people can overlook their usual cemented values when these phenomenons occur.

The Kony 2012 campaign’s foray into the social media realm reveals the hype that these phenomenons can create. After the video Kony 2012 was aired, which currently has fewer views than sneezing panda I might add, it was propelled into the social media abyss. It was impossible to avoid a Facebook without a Kony 2012 display picture and twitter was inundated with #kony2012 tweets by people who thought that this was their opportunity to be a freedom fighter. The campaign slowly disintegrated after questions of the legitimacy of the charity were raised at the founder was arrested for being drunk and masturbating in public. Regardless, this campaign truly demonstrated the capacity for social media to really motivate people.

How does this apply to journalists? Well, as Raju Narisetti of the Washington Post argued it is now “‘tweet or die’ or ‘tweet or get sacked’.” If journalists don’t harness these phenomenons, engage with people in these phenomenons and write about these phenomenons, they are doing themselves a great disservice. It is undeniable the amount of interest people take in these, often fleeting, crazes. Hence, an effective journalist should use these phenomenons to their advantage, as it can gain an immense amount of readers. As a result, the conclusion of this post is a series of photos of ‘cat-breading’, which is a current social media fascination.


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