Social Media is the New Lynch Mob

I was away, immersed in ConferenceLand all last week, so, while I spent a lot of time pushing information out (via Twitter, mostly), I didn’t spend a lot of time absorbing what was happening on Social Media.

And a lot happened. Specifically, a man killed a lion in Africa. Walter Palmer, a US Dentist, shot and killed a lion named “Cecil” last week. Social media exploded. Blew up. People called for him to be extradited back to Africa and tried, people called for him to have his legs cut off and thrown to the lions. His dental practice is besieged with protesters, and unable to open.

Now, let me be really, REALLY clear. I am not a hunter. I have trouble killing a spider. Lions are beautiful, majestic animals, and this guy killed one by bribing a bunch of people. I’m not down with that. But this blog post is not about whether or not what Palmer did was right or wrong. It’s about looking at what social media has become: a mob of people with flaming torches.


I love social media. I love it because it gives us, the little guys, power. If I had a problem with a business in the past, I had little recourse. I could maybe try to call a customer service line, or send a letter. But now, with Facebook, Twitter, Yelp and Trip Advisor, my voice is suddenly very, very loud. And that’s a heady feeling.

I love social media because it has been a great democratizer. But it sometimes goes too far. There are no real consequences to you talking smack about stuff on your Facebook page. But when a million people jump on that bandwagon and start to talk smack… that snowball effect can have some pretty powerful consequences.

In my classes, I often use the example (of what not to do) of Justine Sacco. This gal was in PR and should probably have known better, but to her credit, she had a twitter feed that she was trying to fill with irony (hint: irony doesn’t translate well on Twitter). She was flying to Africa, and tweeted, “going to Africa, hope I don’t get AIDS, just kidding, I’m white.”  By the time her plane landed, her life was over. Her tweet was trending #1 worldwide, and she had been fired. The year that followed was a very difficult one for her. By the way, Sacco had less than 200 twitter followers at the time.

The question I’m asking here, is not, “did they do something stupid?” but “does the punishment fit the crime?” We have no idea how our small actions add up to immense consequences for those that the social shaming is aimed at.

Author Jon Ronson has written a very interesting book on the topic: So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, where he cites dozens of examples of this social media lynch mob mentality.

Here’s what frightens me the most: what if this lynch mob mentality kicked into gear when you really hadn’t done anything wrong? What happened to “innocent until proven guilty?” We are playing with people’s lives, here.

I’ll leave the last word to my friend Sean, who is a lot smarter about this stuff than I am:

To me, it is just the latest example of the erosion of the rule of law and a shift towards a lynch-mob form of justice through the use of social media. Without any presumption of innocence until proven guilty, without a fair trial, without a full review of the evidence or knowledge of all the facts, without any opportunity to defend one’s self, the court of public opinion has taken it upon itself, once again, to pronounce judgment and impose a sentence.

Not only do I find it reprehensible that more and more people are deemed guilty in a manner that is contrary to the principles of justice or fairness, the punishments imposed by knee-jerk popular opinion are often disproportionate to the crime (if there even was a crime).

It also bothers me if it is a matter of morality rather than law. Just because the majority might deem something to be right or wrong does not make it right or wrong. I also question the morality of responding to an act that may be perceived to be immoral through the use of vengeance, extreme ostracism, or some other draconian or disproportionate form of punishment.

But I will leave the very last, last word to Mr. Berkeley Breathed, who has delighted the world (including me) this past month by starting to write Bloom County strips again.


Stay safe out there, friends. Be kind. Use your social media powers for good.

On a break…

Gentle reader;

This is one of those posts I’ve been struggling with for a while. One of those ones you feel bubbling up inside you, but you don’t know if you have the guts to actually put fingers to keyboard and let it out.

There are always reasons for this, and those reasons are always rooted in fear. Fear of being judged. Fear of being thought a failure. Fear of criticism.

But here’s the long and the short of it: it’s time to make some changes.

Change quote

I’ve been bloggidy-blogging here in some form or another since October of 2008, and before that I blogged in other places. This has been a huge part of my life.

I started this blog for two reasons; one was I need a marketing tool for my newly-launched freelance PR/social media marketing biz. And the other was that I needed to write. Starting at the age of 18, I had a 20-year-long love affair with the theatre. I still love the theatre, but we’re on a break while I raise my son. Still, that creative energy doesn’t just go away. It needs an outlet. And for me, that outlet has been writing over the last (nearly) 8 years. At current count, there are 3 blogs: this one, Cooking by Laptop, and Brunchcouver. I also still occasionally contribute to VancityBuzz, and I am a paid writer for another Vancouver blog.

On top of all that, I have 4 part-time teaching contracts, and a handful of social media & PR clients. Plus, the kid.

So, yeah, I’m busy.

But I was busy before, too. What’s changed? Well, for starters, I’m teaching more than I ever have before (and I don’t want to say no to teaching–I really love it, and the onslaught of work now means I can take July and August off to just hang with my son). As well, one of my clients recently has needed more this month than they have in the past, as we are into a really busy season with them. So, basically what’s happening is, I have tons of paid work. Not a bad problem to have, right?? Exactly. But it leaves little time for (directly) unpaid work, like blogging.

For me, blogging has always been an investment in the future. This blog has been my main source of marketing for new clients and my book(s), and it’s been a highly successful one. My cooking blog allows me to have some amazing food and travel experiences, and I’m grateful for that. But the time I sink into these, in terms of what it pays back in directly billable hours, is negligible.

So, I have to focus on paid work.

But this brings up all kinds of things for me. You see, I’m an all-or-nothing kinda gal. I create a schedule and stick to it. At this time, I’m writing between 6-7 blog posts a week. It’s a big commitment, and when I commit to something, I really commit to it. So not doing it feels like failure to me.

But on the other hand, I’m also aware that some of my blog posts over the last few months have been… less than stellar. There have been times when I’ve put something up because I needed content, not necessarily because I was deeply inspired to write. And the quality may not have been as high.

I feel like it’s time to take a break, and take a step back. I’ve already had one coaching session, and I need some more time to chat with some other friends and bloggers about what the next step needs to be.

One thing I’m considering is combining the two blogs–if I can only figure out how to make food and social media work together?

I feel muddy. I need clarity. And I need a little time to hopefully get that.

So, gentle reader, I’m taking a bit of a break. I’m not sure how long it will be. Maybe just a couple of weeks, maybe a month. My classes all wrap up at the end of June, so I will be getting back a big chunk of time then.

In the mean time, please continue to follow and interact with me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. And I’d love to hear your thoughts or ideas on how I might move forward. You, after all, are a big reason why I do this–so you opinion is incredibly important to me. Please feel free to comment below or on my Facebook page.

Until soon,



5 Quotes from Seth Godin

Last weekend, I took a big trip. I’d been invited on a FAM trip to Vernon (for my other blog), and the drive was about 4 ½ hours.

In preparation for this drive, I made sure Chica (my new-to-me- 2006 Kia Rio) had been tuned up, and I had a new stereo installed in her so I could listen to podcasts from my phone. I then downloaded the 15 episodes of the Social Media Examiner podcast I had yet to catch up on (and a few more) and hit the road.

One of the podcasts was an interview with Seth Godin. Now, I’m pretty sure you know who Seth is. He is one of the leaders and one of the heroes of my Social Media Marketing world. Author of 22 books and a daily blog, he travels the world speaking (I had the privilege of seeing him live last year). Godin is one of my heroes, because in his heart, he’s an artist, and I can identify with that. His philosophies around marketing match my own, and every time I hear him speak, I feel incredibly inspired. I was literally in tears listening to this podcast, and that’s not something that normally happens.

So, I thought I’d pull together 5 of my favourite quotes from Seth Godin, and hope that you feel inspired, as well.

seth godin quote blogging

seth godin quote leadershp

seth godin quote inspiration

seth godin quote creativity


seth godin quote success