The Reach of a Tweet

So I work in social media.  I teach some social media.  I play around in some social media channels.  I own a blog with my own name as its url simply so I show up in Google searches.  Through all these years playing around in social media as a profession, I’ve never really made it a huge focus of my personal life.  Maybe I’ll make a connection here or there.  But nothing substantial.

And yet today, a simple tweet seemed to strike a chord with people.

All day long Occupy Seattle mayhem shut down streets downtown.  People couldn’t get home from work.  Rogue anarchists broke windows.  Children couldn’t be picked up from school.  Store clerks feared for their safety.  Middle class parents – and their bosses – had to figure out what was best for their kids, their businesses and their co-workers.

I was unaffected by the chaos despite being right around the corner from it.  I took my wife home from her surgery but thought to myself, “Thank God this mayhem didn’t affect us getting to the hospital, or home from it.” I tried to rid my mind of thoughts of how angry I would be if I was stuck in traffic due to a protest, while my wife sat groggily in pain in the passenger seat of our car.

I scanned the Twitter stream and noticed that people who supported OWS had lost patience with OccupySeattle.  OccupySeattle wasn’t about a revolution anymore.  What started with good intentions but no real purpose, had transformed into an incubator for people with negative intentions and directed purpose. The movement had created a dark side, or at least allowed the dark side to breed.

And so I said:

Dear #OccupySeattle. The 99% has gotten together & decided we need better representation. Thx for the effort.  Good luck w/ future endeavors.”

It was exactly 140 characters.  My point was pretty clear.  Whatever goodwill the original Occupy movement had generated had been pretty much decimated here in Seattle.  The most liberal town in America was saying, “WTF are you guys doing? You are totally destroying this.”

Meanwhile,  my most nagging thought as I hit “Tweet this” was whether I should be using “has” or “have” for the verb.  I was out of characters, so I went with the former. It was a quick line, and after I sent it, I had all but forgotten about it.

A few hours later, it’s become the most retweeted thing I’ve ever sent out. For the first time ever, I started trending in Seattle.  People we retweeting this because they agreed with the sentiment.  And yet two tweets back at me stand out:

To the 1st repsonse I counter, “I agree. To the normal everyday 99%, the rogue hooligans have nothing to do with OWS.  However, Occupy Seattle has little to do with OWS as well.  Somehow OccupySeattle has developed an identity of its own, and not in a good way.”

The 2nd response made me realize I had struck a nerve with some folks.  I run a small business, invest in a startup and teach at a University.  I enjoy creating commerce and inspiring others to do the same.  More commerce means more transactions.  More transactions means more jobs.  More jobs means more wealth for everyone.  But to this person, I was simply “snarky.”  Trying to build small businesses and encouraging entrepreneurship isn’t enough. I’m evil because I don’t want to join or represent a revolution with no goal or purpose.

It will be interesting to see if this tweet fades away into the night as May Day passes.  Maybe more and more people will agree with the sentiment and retweet it.  Or, will we see more of the negative side of #OccupySeattle come out tomorrow.   Either way, it’s a great social media lesson in progress.

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