Oh, Mary

Running Fast

May 11, 2020
Shawn Shirey

One of the great things about social media is that you can show the world your true colors. You know with certainty that whatever you post, it’s from you. The real you: Up-to-the-second, filled with contradictions, fast.

Fast stories are meant for fast consumption. In social media, we get to shift and adapt quickly. Exactly what’s needed during this awful pandemic. 

One minute you’re feeling OK. The next, not so great. Is there something wrong with me? No, there isn’t. It’s just that our world went to hell in a handbasket. 

In the weeks leading up to closures—school closures, office closures, and yes, booty-call closures, we were so busy consuming content and material things, we couldn’t imagine what life would look like in a sequestered world. Whisked away to shelter-in-place unless deemed essential, we had to reinvent traditions and rely on new tools. Some of us ended up without jobs. 

But the one thing that remains is our quickly evolving personal identities. And on social, we get to express those complex, layered identities with abandon.

As professional communicators, we scrambled in recent weeks to help our clients reshape narratives away from consumerism toward citizenship. News organizations, laser-focused on COVID, had to adapt to new realities overnight. Traditional long-lead media became suddenly more agile. On social, stories relevant yesterday were old news today. 

With our tourism clients, we had to switch from destination marketing to community outreach and support. We could no longer tell people to get out and explore. We were able to shift to let people know which of their favorite restaurants were open for takeout. We showed how neighbors created art in their windows to support passersby. 

Our clients in the food sector have been more fortunate, but not without struggle. We had to change the narrative and the look of our pages to reflect our current situation. That meant focusing on families. Telling consumers how they could source quick and easy meals, sometimes without even leaving the house. We brainstormed with our clients because they wanted to do good for their communities. We’re fortunate to be as busy as ever, because the power of the human condition never becomes obsolete.

Social media is far from perfect. It’s a place where misinformation reigns, where people can attack without fear of physical retaliation. This is where professional communicators can help.

Just recently a feature length documentary was released to the public via social media channels. It’s compelling on the surface. A doctor in molecular biology tells us she worked with Dr. Fauci and that some of the precautions we are taking to protect ourselves from COVID could actually harm us. It’s not hard to find information to debunk just about everything this documentary states. People still fall for it. 

It’s up to us to shift the narrative in a positive way and to fight as hard as we can for truth. 

Even though we’re moving at the speed of light, we need to find better ways to fight disinformation. Try not to put people down. Try to lift them up. As fun as memes are (trust me, I share WAY too many in my personal life), we need to educate instead of eviscerating. Not everyone is going to take the time to learn, but we can keep pushing until they do.