The Curious Case of Randy Newman and the Oscars
One of the scariest aspects of social media is its ability to democratize, amplify and accelerate judgment.
We use it to weigh in on everything, with lightening speed, as if a game show buzzer has been placed in our hands and we need to smack it fast or we won’t win the exciting unknown entity that lies behind Door Number Three.
While in some circles, this process of “instant arbitration” creates a slightly snarky Greek chorus, the more common phenomenon is that it creates an instant army of Alice’s Queen of Hearts, tromping around, bellowing, “Off with their heads!”
Nowhere was this more apparent than Sunday’s Academy Awards.
As I did last year, I watched the Oscars on Sunday with my Twitter network in tow. But there was a noticeable change this year in the speed, volume (the most conservative estimate of number of tweets during the show was 400,000) and vitriol of the comments.
It went something like this.
“And the winner is…Randy Newman, for Toy Story 3!”
- “Randy Newman sounds like a broken food processor.”
- “At some point, someone will notice that Randy Newman has won for the same song 19 times.“
- “Hi. I’m Randy Newman. I’ve written the same song twenty different times. Where’s my check?”
- “And they have to stop nominating Randy Newman. Just because he works with Pixar, it doesn’t make it a good song.”
(These are actual tweets, btw.)
Now, me? I’ve got no beef with Randy Newman. So I was surprised at the amount of anti-Randy sentiment that started flooding the feed last Sunday.
Not only do I have no beef with the guy, I never even think about him. Ever.
And you know what? I’m guessing a lot of those Randy bashers don’t ever think about him, either.
But there he was on stage. And perhaps in that moment, all those people saw the swarm of tweets go by and thought, “Well I guess I’d better weigh in on Randy Newman, too.”
I was totally guilty of the same behavior on Oscar night. I didn’t tweet about Randy, but I did comment on the flat jokes (which were most of them), awkward hosts, and ugly dresses.*
I did it because that’s what it feels like you’re supposed to do.
Social media offers a Rorschach slideshow of images and ideas and we, in turn, shout out what we see. That’s the premise of the whole form.
Content is posted, we comment with an “LOL,” we “Like” it, we share it, and then we move on. It’s become such a Pavlovian process that I’m not sure we even think about the “whys” anymore.
But, when we find ourselves searching the ground for rotten tomatoes simply because everyone else is throwing them, maybe it’s time to start.
*I tweeted about happy, nice things during the Oscars too, incidentally.
Great stuff here, Jennifer. You’re right on the money and I noticed the same thing on Sunday as I watched the Oscars with my laptop open and Hootsuite grinding away.
I tried to be fair and throw out both positive and negative comments, it’s weird how all through social media we are more apt to voice negative opinions to cause a stir. It’s almost like a Digital Mob Mentality, even if you’re not angry, when everyone else is you pick up your torch and march along in stride.
Maybe that should be our new special project…inciting happy mobs 🙂
Good topic, JKane. It does seem the prevalent strain of discourse is to tear down those who have something we don’t – whether it be an Oscar or the allegedly excessive worker benefits of teachers.
While “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” is easier said than done – and certainly not attention-getting – the alternative seems to be sitting on the sidelines taking potshots. That’s a whole lot easier than actually DOING something.
Is there room in social media for a long-term, more equity-based approach to one’s public persona? Or does the only success (gaining followers, influence, etc.) come from attempts to entertain at the expense of others?
I think I know the answer to that: the talented ones can provide value and do the former. Since talent is scarce, we see and hear a lot more of the second approach.
What do you think?
Good questions. I’d like to hope that there’s room for that to happen.
I think part of the problem is that not everyone understands yet that they have sprouted an online persona that needs to be cultivated and cared for just like their offline one. I think many are still stuck in this, “I put a bunch of data on these sites and then I go post things there every once in awhile” mentality, not realizing that increasingly people are viewing those online outposts with just as much scrutiny and anything we have offline.
There are a number of people whom I follow simply because they genuinely seem to like people (and not just themselves). They’re not more rare than the other kind, just quieter, and consequently sometimes harder to see 🙂