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When Does Social Media Go Too Far?

Social media has always been a double-edged sword—but this time it's taken a turn for the worst.

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In my honest opinion, I think social media is a fantastic tool. Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Periscope, Facebook—you name it, I think they’re fantastic (even though I am terrible at using social media). On social media you can chat to other people, globally, about things that interest you; you can vent and blog about things you may not want to reveal in real life. You can make online friends who are funny, witty and intelligent; you can have intellectual and deep discussions with others and learn. You can use social media as a tool to bring communities—past and present—together, such as the very topical fundraiser for the Trevor Project has recently.

A fantastic fundraiser for a truly fantastic cause. If you're unaware of what the Trevor Project is, I highly recommend googling them for an idea. To The 100 fans: Heda would be so proud.
A fantastic fundraiser for a truly fantastic cause. If you’re unaware of what the Trevor Project is, I highly recommend googling them for an idea. To The 100 fans: Heda would be so proud.

But as I’ve mentioned, it’s a double-edged sword. I’ll start with the very simple issue of cyber-bullying. Cyber-bullying accounts for a large number of suicides in the WHO’s most recent suicide collation—however, suicide is a murky subject as under-reporting and mix-ups are a huge problem in terms of numbers. As it stood of 2012, WHO reported a suicide rate of 804,000 per year (that’s 1 suicide every 40 seconds). In the light of such horrific things I’ve seen on twitter such as suicidal ideation and self-harm, this is an extremely topical issue, considering I follow many twitters that are television fans. The most topical issue I can think of is the outpouring of grief following LGBTQ deaths on The 100 and The Walking Dead.

I’ve also stated before that since opening my direct messages on Twitter, I have received messages from fans all over the world looking for some consolation or advice; some, I’ve extended my help to regardless, and we’ve had a nice chat and I’ve made some new friends. But as the fundraiser grows, so does controversy around one show in particular: The 100.

As recently revealed on the We Deserved Better website, site creators professionally collated a huge and damning amount of evidence implicating one of the show writers. To summarize, the show writer had visited a lesbian message forum (upon already knowing Lexa had died) to ‘reassure’ them differently.

The webpage and collection of hard evidence says it all, really. I don't know if anyone over the years of industry has seen unprofessionalism quite like this.
The webpage and collection of hard evidence says it all, really. I don’t know if anyone over the years of industry has seen unprofessionalism quite like this.

I don’t know when this scandal over this show will blow over—I don’t know if it ever will, because accusations and immense evidence like this keep leaking. But one thing I do know for sure, and this isn’t from a critic/writer’s standpoint, is how to be professional. I am a pharmacy student and I hope to become a successful one. My main goal and vocation is to make patients my first concern. Yet there are aspects of my course that retain professionalism (be it attire, attitude, honesty, integrity) as one of the core points of our course. Why am I talking about pharmacy here? Because in all aspects of a profession, as the name suggests, surely professionalism is key. What has happened here, in this particular case, is absolutely, disgustingly unprofessional. It isn’t illegal—I don’t think so and I’m pretty sure it isn’t—but it is scandalous, exploitative, manipulative and cold. So cold. How cold must you be to deliberately post on a lesbian message forum (and if it’s a lesbian message forum, then surely it is amok with Clarke and Lexa fans) to essentially trick them into a false sense of security? To ensure that they are fully sucked into the frankly appalling game of PR and television business, knowing their beloved character is already dead, just to keep viewership levels up?

I think what is often forgotten is that behind these TV/computer screens, behind the statistics that are simply figures—there are real humans watching this show. There are real humans getting exploited and misled by false claims, lies and manipulation. That disconnect shocks me, considering writers often talk of making people ‘feel’. So how do writers feel when they blatantly lie and mislead their audience? Manipulate them? There can’t be any care there, for that level of exploitation—so really, is it just money?

Before this was even reported, I’ve had messages flooding in saying they’ve never seen exploitation—not just from this particular writer, but from the staff in general, including showrunner Mr. Jason Rothenberg—to this level before. Upon seeing this, I was horrified and shocked when I scrolled through the entire collation of tweets.

As just previously stated, if you are interested, it may be a good idea for you to check out the We Deserve Better website as a whole. I’d advise you to take some time in going through the website’s posts and collection of evidence, including tweets, pictures, quotes and other excellent articles covering the show’s scandal, to get a whole picture of what this means for the show.

The 100 is renewed for season four, as are all CW shows, so its future is secure. As for the viewership figures, the continued social media manipulation, the disastrous interview the show-runner finally gave (timely, before WonderCon) about the episode ‘Thirteen’, that remains unclear. Of course, there will still be a steady viewer base, because not everyone liked Lexa, not everyone liked Clarke and Lexa together, and some people may still be invested in the plot-line…whatever remains of that. So in light of this almost sensationalized article (good grief, I am becoming a newspaper journalist—help me) I want to congratulate the talented cast for getting season four, because Eliza Taylor is stunning as Clarke Griffin, and Lindsey Morgan in particular is an absolute star—honest, earnest and emotive.

To round off, I want to go back to my question: when does social media go too far? I’ve talked of cyber-bullying on a general and very serious level. But when it comes to professionals using social media, such as writers, then in my humble opinion, this is the very definition of ‘too far‘. As a professional surely you cannot exploit a trusting and vulnerable LGBTQ fanbase like that. As a professional surely you cannot have the audacity to lie, bare-faced, like that. As a professional, you must be professional. And in the light of today’s reveals, I can say without a doubt—this went too far. It went so far that I think it’s actually shot out of the planet and is currently orbiting another galaxy.

My last note is an apology. I wish to apologize to those very vulnerable LGBTQ fans I was talking about; I want to apologize to everyone who cried to me in my direct messages. I want to apologize to everyone who trusted a professional writer and got absolutely swindled. I want to apologize because every single one of you is a decent, beautiful human—and nobody deserves to be exploited or lied to like that. By anyone, lest a professional. So I offer my sincerest apologies. However, I do wish to end on a positive note.

In the light of all this consistency of scandals, there is still ongoing positivity with the fundraiser for the Trevor Project. As I write, it has garnered a mind-blowing $62,625. Yes, this recent news is horrendous and inexcusable—but I applaud everyone who has raised money for this excellent cause, and for anyone who cannot donate, I applaud you for sharing and promoting the cause too.

I have never really encountered a fanbase that has been consistently hit with so many disgraces in such a short period of time—but goodness me, on the flipside of that, because of such disgraces, I have never encountered a fanbase that has endured positively through all of it. I’ve never encountered a fanbase that has united others, inspired spoofs, raised money to save lives. This is the highest, most condemning level of unprofessionalism there is—there is no doubt about that. It is shameful and disgraceful (and I’m being extremely polite)—but thank you to the fanbase, and other supportive fanbases too—for continuing to march onwards with positivity and pride—as you should.

20 Comments

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    • Wow, thank you! I really would advise against that–but I can guarantee you that I wouldn’t exploit your readership for some dosh and then kill off your fave!

  1. From the beginning this was always more than just another dead lesbian character and I’m glad all of this is being brought out. The 100 crossed a lot of lines and they shouldn’t get away with this, everyone knows how shows do PR but this isn’t it.

    • Despite my pain and feeling of betrayal I am almost glad it happened because this is what happens time and time again. Maybe to a lesser extent and the 100 writers took it to the next level but it did make the community raise up and shout collectively enough is enough.

      It may not alwasure be visible to the general audience but this happens all to often. The lesbian sweeps kiss is just another prevelant example, it may not be as harmful but it is another format of luring in the LG BT community and using themy for ratings. It is painful and this case is the worst I’ve ever seen, it needs to stop.

      • Yeah absolutely. I think looking back onto the history of this trope, and the horrible way the LGBTQ community have been mistreated and often bullied, discriminated and stigmatised against, I think this really was the final straw. It wasn’t just another death–it was exploitation and manipulation, too. Absolutely. I think we’ve all seen now in real-time just how the LGBTQ sweeps brings buzz and hype to an otherwise mediocre show; we’ve seen how they utilise it and lie about it. There has to be a line, and it’s being drawn now–not just by fans, but by big, big outlets and well-respected critics, too. It really does need to stop. LGBTQ fans are not stepping stones–they are human, and should be treated as such. Thank you, J!

    • Absolutely. I think people were rightfully upset Lexa died–a normal reaction if one of your favourites dies–but I think the real hurt and betrayal stemmed from the year-long manipulation and exploitation of an already vulnerable fanbase. Certain message forums are safe-zones for minorities. To invade that space with lies and false promises is disastrous PR. I don’t blame the hurt individuals at all. Yet they have created something wonderful in the fundraiser–so I can’t admire them enough for that, after being essentially used and betrayed–they still raised money for a wonderful charity. Thank you for commenting!

  2. The 100 was renewed early in season two yet took a whole year to actually come back for season 3. I doubt it’ll actually come back for season 4.

    • I know nothing (Jon Snow) of renewals and all that business–but that’s an intriguing prospect. It’s a shame because the show had potential–it just crammed a lot into a small space of time, resulting in rushed plots, shock values that didn’t pay off, and terrible character arcs. If they’d split this season across two, perhaps it would’ve been better and been more cohesive as a story–not as a bodged, rushed job. Thank you for your insight, Nate!

  3. Has anyone told you ever before how amazing you are? Because amazing person you are. Thank you for understanding our pain thank you for taking the time to research and the time to write an amazing article. You have no idea how thankful I am. (and sure many others).

    Good luck in your studies!

    • Thank you for your incessantly kind words–I feel utterly undeserving of them but I am immensely humbled and grateful, so thank you! It really is not a chore to research into a topic like this–it’s something close to my heart, and when I see people upset about such exploitation and disgusting unprofessionalism, it hits me hard, especially when people get upset about it. Thus whilst I am not the most eloquent of writers I try my best to offer some solace. Thank you–and again, thank you, I’ll need it! 😛

  4. Thank you for writing this article. I felt bad for Shawna when she cried on periscope. Now I see that she was probably crying out of fear of this coming to light. I hope that if nothing else, this fiasco stands as a warning to other industry professionals of how not to engage with fans online. Wondercon is probably going to be pretty interesting.

    • Unfortunately I don’t know what occurred then but I AM sorry that this manipulation game occurred at all. It’s a complete lack of professionalism and I’m sorry that anybody was hurt by it. Indeed: social media is a very double-edged sword, but if you are in a position of power or profession, then for goodness’ sake, do you not have a duty to be responsible, too? Instead of lie and trick?

      Thank you, bre. X

  5. You’re a gem, Nicola Choi. Thank you for all of your positivity and support, and for being a part of this fandom with us.

    • Thank you, DJ Shiva. And no worries. If people are upset or feel down or dark–is it so hard to extend some light ? Some kindness? I’ve seen a lot of bullying and mockery and quite frankly it’s disgusting. The fandom, made up of so many individuals, can grieve as they want–and nobody should dictate how long for, or how severely. I don’t know why that is a hard concept to grasp. Thank you, most sincerely!

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