Our View: Social media's new normal

Tuesday , March 18, 2014 - 3:15 PM

Editorial Board

The debate over KSL Channel 5’s decision not to carry a new TV show, "The New Normal," underscores what is the new normal in social organization, protests, and how companies and individuals react to protests.

Facebook, for example, was the prime arena for reaction, positive and negative, to KSL’s decision not to air episodes of "The New Normal," a new situation comedy that involves two gay men who are seeking a surrogate to give birth to a baby they plan to raise. Once the decision by KSL to not air the show was announced, a large part of the debate was initiated on social media, particularly Facebook. More than 1,000 comments were logged, pro and con, as KSL defended its decision on Facebook and others used the site to strongly disagree.

Facebook, Twitter, and other social media are today’s preferred venues for social protest. The recent protests of Chickfil-A restaurant, as well as comments by a politician, Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., have largely been organized and initiated through social media. Both major presidential campaigns have strong Facebook presences.

The rise of the Internet has made social media a far more convenient location to grow protests. No longer are churches, campus quads, community meeting halls or even living rooms or kitchen tables the way to gather support or initiate action. A social media site provides the ability to reach thousands in a minute and move one’s message quickly, in fact almost instantaneously, to millions. It is the new normal.

In the case of the pulled TV show — which by the way can be seen on another local station, KUCW, Channel 30, and on NBC’s website — the manner in which KSL TV responded to the protests is also instructive. The TV station allowed a full venting about its decision by those who disagreed with it.

Ultimately, the TV station’s willingness to allow dissent on its Facebook page led to meetings with gay rights groups. While the ban stayed in place, the perceived openness and dialogue helped KSL get out of this controversy relatively unscathed. This is smart social media management, and should be emulated by other entities that face rapid, easy-to-organize Internet campaigns on Facebook, Twitter, and other such sites.

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