The nebulous “internet” is not a trustworthy beast. The same sword it knights you with, it will good night you with. The love is fickle, and often fleeting, and chasing it will likely end unfortunately for you.
This was evidenced recently in the latest “Can You Believe This Funny Account?” award winner, the @Wendys Twitter account. A swift burn of a troll went viral and a swelling interest surrounded their tweets, resulting in many discovering how frequently funny whoever was behind the account could be. Suddenly, users were begging @Wendys to roast them, too, placing more engagement and eyeballs on their account. It was every social media manager’s dream.
Two things: a) this is kind of how advanced corporate marketing and brand management works in the digital sphere—your consumer loyalty correlates with the *cool*, or *woke*, or in this case, *hilarious* brand more than the product itself. They’re reinforcing other sticky advertising, not changing your mind. Your joy of devouring a Wendy’s double bacon cheeseburger or 5-piece nuggets is already known. Their backhanding a troll—while commendable—shouldn’t change anything. That burger isn’t suddenly juicier just because the drama surrounding it is. Also b) the humor is pretty low stakes and basic. Louis C.K. or Dave Chappelle, they are not.
The increasing activity and attention led the content mills to spin and collect those possible clicks, reinforcing that the @Wendys Twitter account was *a thing that was definitely happening*. (And no, we’re not really exempt here either.) If you logged on to your FaceInstaTwitterBook this week, it’d be remarkable if you somehow didn’t see this story—it was even on Anderson Cooper.
The love was real for the pig-tailed redhead. “Wendy’s Is Roasting People On Twitter, And It’s Just Too Funny,” read a Bored Panda headline. From USA Today: “Wendy’s is cold on Twitter, some might even say frosty.” College Humor: “Wendy’s Twitter Replies Are Becoming the Best Part of Twitter.” Don’t forget, People: “Wendy’s Just Won the Best Twitter Feud of 2017 So Far.” A definite win for the brand.
@Wendys knows how to play the Internet game. It has opinions on the best original Pokemon, can deliver a funny GIF or two, and can speak hip and/or nerdy in trendy internet terms. It listens to the kids, bro.
Then @Wendys tweeted the wrong meme.
Pepe the Frog used to be an innocuous meme, used essentially in the way @Wendys did. Perverse, slightly creepy, yet funny. But the meme became co-opted by the alt-right, and its meaning as symbol has altered drastically. Hillary Clinton’s campaign decried its usage and the Anti-Defamation League added Pepe the Frog to its “Hate on Display” database. The meme is not funny in the way it once was. “Our community manager was unaware of the recent political connotations associated with Pepe memes, and it has since been removed,” Wendy’s social media manager Amy Brown said to Business Insider.
To keep up with the drastically shifting meaning of words and memes on the internet is a full-time gig. If you lived off the grid, or weren’t following certain circles, it’s easily possible you weren’t aware that Pepe the Frog was now considered a hate symbol of sorts. @Wendys offense likely won’t strike you that seriously, unless you’re of the “internet.” It’s a forgivable mistake, really. But if you play by the internet’s rules and chase its adoration, you’ll get burned eventually. It might even come from a fast food account. Then, to save face, you’ll have no choice but to eat the beef.
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