If you’ve been on the internet at all this week, you’ll have read the story about a doctor who was dragged off a United Airlines flight by law enforcement, due to it being overbooked. Or, Kendall Jenner’s Pepsi advert, which was problematic for many reasons. In light of the recent controversy surrounding these stories, it bears out how important social media is in times of injustice.
Clearly, situations like this often invite the thought process of inserting yourself into the situation. The comments of any Facebook article are filled with people disgusted that no one stepped in on the United flight. We would all like to be able say, for example, we would do something and act if we were there, but watching the passengers on the react with shock and horror, it’s hard to say we would act much differently.
Regardless, this is where the prevalence and power of social media become important. What started as a Facebook post was shared thousands of times and quickly spread across other social media sites such as Twitter. So the video, of which many people were critical, ended up being immensely important in the context of bringing the problematic situation to light.
The combined outrage across social media had an impact on the spread of the story, causing it to be posted on more and more media outlets. The publicity created by strong, impassioned responses on social media can be seen to have forced a statement from the CEO. This was widely shared on Twitter.
This time, the internet had its say and weren’t happy with the unapologetic nature of this response. Seemingly trivializing the treatment of the passenger, people voiced that they were not satisfied with the apology.
This was exacerbated, after an email leaked in which the CEO of the company seemed to defend the actions of the airline, and there was further outrage.
Once again, social media forced the hand of the company who then released another statement.
The second statement explicitly acknowledges the ‘horrific’ nature of what happened, and more clearly admits wrongdoing on the part of the airline.
Through voicing opinions, replying to the companies official Twitter, and showing public disapproval, the importance of social media in news becomes clear. Here, it holds businesses, like United Airlines, to account for its actions, and forces them to do better.
By actively seeking an apology, social media backlash has successfully, if not directly, caused action to be taken by United Airlines. If people did not voice their opinion in such a way, it is fair to say that perhaps the airline may not have taken any further action.
This is similar to the controversy surrounding Kendall Jenner’s recent, problematic Pepsi advertisement, which was eventually pulled due to public outrage. Once again, by pointing out the injustice and unfairness, individual voices on social media came together to affect change and force Pepsi to do better.
There’s no denying social media is problematic, even that it invites a selfish commentary surrounding injustices like this one. But it has never been more important to hold people accountable for their actions, and we should be grateful of the power of our online voices, and never forget how powerful they are when they are used to make a difference.