One year ago today, I posted something which would change the way I use Facebook from then on in. One simple photo of a demolished city, provoked a viral reaction I simply did not expect and in the end, wish I never had.
To set the record straight, this blog post won’t be about dissecting my thoughts and values behind the Facebook post but instead look at how its reaction impacted on me and the way I behave on Facebook. I’ve long since given up on explaining the nature of the post and replying to bigoted comments and messages from people who’ve not yet grasped the basics of sarcasm.
The post in question:
I posted this at 7.30pm after debating with myself whether I should or not but I decided to bite the bullet and go for it; this was at the height of press coverage of the refugee crisis so I knew it was going to provoke a reaction of sorts.
Shortly after posting…
The post gained likes from friends, as they do, but due to the public privacy settings it gained more and more traction, friends weren’t only liking the post but sharing too; it wasn’t long until friends of friends were sharing and before long complete strangers were sharing the post. Three hours later it had over 3,000 shares and over 1,000 likes – something I’d never experienced in my time as a social media manager, even for a national brand.
The next day…
I woke to thousands more shares and likes but now comments were starting to go from in support to fully against the nature of the post. As I slept, it had been shared across Asia and Australia but negative comments were coming from mostly the UK and US, as it was a Friday, I was working and unable to respond until later in the day where I was out with work colleagues.
Signal was low but we were trying to guess how many shares and likes the post had gained since we last looked; in the 24 hours since posting it had gained almost 19,000 shares and was gaining momentum. I’ve never experiences notifications like it, comments were posted and replies were getting out of control – full on debates were being had between people from all across the world.
The phone was nonstop, waking to more and more likes and shares but already the novelty was wearing thin. The previously mentioned bigoted comments were relentless and I was receiving more and more friend requests so people could message me.
I tried to respond to messages as best as possible but you cannot argue with the unreasonable, of course at times I had to concede that I didn’t know everything, but I knew more than most after researching and trying to follow as many media outlets as possible (although again, lesson learnt that you should never trust everything you read).
It was getting to the point where replies I made were getting hundreds upon hundreds of likes, over a fifteen hundred at one point.
By the end of the weekend I had over 43,000 shares and likes around the 20,000 mark.
No more comments please…
With privacy settings completely open, anyone and everyone was able to comment and it was spiralling out of control. I was being bombarded and had to have some clear headspace, I couldn’t believe how it was affecting me.
I had to do something to prevent it and the only way I could do this was to remove comments from public. By reducing it down to only friends of friends, comments certainly did slow but there were still a number of people who were friends of friends willing to argue out over the post which resulted in ultimately removing access to anyone but friends.
Calm after the storm?
Well, after the initial viral furore I thought that it was all over but I was wrong. From Monday through to the following Friday (one week on from the initial posting), shares grew to 65,000 and likes over 30,000.
It wasn’t until then I found the ‘Other’ folder in my Facebook…
Although the majority of messages I had received were positive:
Although I did get a death threat from an Islamophobe from the US, there’s a first time for everything. I responded to some of the messages I got, I had to leave most of them because I just couldn’t bring myself to continue on with such an emotionally draining debate.
To this day…
I’ve taken a step back, I don’t post so as many provocative posts, in fact I hardly ever post on Facebook. Not in fear that I’d go viral again, I really don’t want to go viral again (well not for something so politically charged anyway, maybe a picture of a cat or something).
It’s easy to see how large groups can believe a specific ideology if enough people follow that same path. We’ve seen it with the Nazis, we’re seeing another ideology happen with Trump in the US.
Humans are fallible more often than not yet many seem to think they’re always correct.