Saturday, May 13, 2017

Nuggets and Negativity: Internetting in 2017

Did you hear about the Wendy's Nugget Guy? If you're on Twitter, or a fan of Ellen, I'm sure you have, but if not, here's the backstory.

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A young man asked the Wendy's corporate Twitter account how many retweets it would take for him to get free chicken nuggets for a year. The corporate account responded, "18 million." A clearly impossible, absurd number he had no chance of reaching.

However, he did break the retweet record with over 3.5 million retweets in about a month. That means 3.5 million individuals pressed the retweet button when they saw his post asking for free nuggets.

Wendy's, realizing the boon of good will and free marketing they were receiving, decided to reward this young man despite him not technically reaching the needed amount of retweets. To their credit, they did more than just give him nuggets, they donated $100,000 to the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption.

Besides being a cool story of a man shooting for the stars and actually catching one, it's a fascinating look at social media interaction, marketing, and our current zeitgeist.

With a simple tweet, you can capture the hearts of millions, the attention of major corporations and celebrities, and free chicken nuggets! Aaron Paul from Breaking Bad showed his support, Ellen Degeneres showed her support and even had him on her show. It was a moment, an idea, that completely united people around a random, silly quest. This kid probably didn't think much of his tweet as he sent it out, and less than a month later, he's appearing on one of the most popular shows in the country. And he got free chicken nuggets! For a year! That's truly amazing.

It reminds me of the Ice Bucket Challenge. A rather silly video/challenge catches on for whatever reason, blows up to the point where everyone knows about it even if they're not on social media, and we as a society end up doing something truly positive. These moments and events show the best side of humanity. We can accomplish anything we want when we come together! And it doesn't take much to bring us together!

However, being humanity, there will always be haters and naysayers. When the Ice Bucket Challenge blew up, there were certain people who just couldn't wait to bash it and the people participating. They found every excuse in the book to degrade the challenge, using relatively decent points (it wasted water) to completely absurd points (this is taking money and attention away from other diseases). Some people even got mad because, according to them, most of the participants didn't even know what ALS was. Even if that were true, it was raising money and at least some awareness for a good cause, so what's the problem? You don't need to know the biological make-up of ALS or HIV or breast cancer to know that it's bad and that we should try to cure it. But some people have to find the negative in everything. Whether it's to feel better about themselves because they take pride in going against the grain, or they are anti-social, or maybe they are just negative overall, they have to find a way to limit people's joy and excitement.

And to be honest, I get that urge. I'm quick to point out ugliness behind a false veneer of beauty. I'm the guy talking about the NFL's problem with domestic violence and CTE during the Super Bowl party, without a doubt. But there are some things that can and should be accepted as positive. There was literally no drawback to the Ice Bucket Challenge; even the wasted water complaint is a little ridiculous considering the actual amount of water. If you're that concerned, yell at people who water their lawns or take half hour showers.

Similarly, there was literally no drawback to retweeting or supporting this kid's quest for free nuggets.

And yet....

Now I "get" internet humor and a lot of this is meant to be funny by way of exaggeration, but.....why? Is it something about human nature that when someone gets too popular, they are an acceptable target for hate? When a celebrity is hated on, Leslie Jones for example, many people will respond, "well, it's part of being a public figure." Receiving hate and even death threats are a part of being a public figure? I agree: that is the reality of the situation. But when you think about it, isn't that a little odd? We encourage civility across the board and we teach kids to respect others, but if your face is on tv every now and then, you deserve whatever awful comments are thrown at you?

Part of it is criticism of whatever they are famous for, and I think that is certainly acceptable. I understand hating on actors and sports stars and musicians. You don’t like their movies or music. You like their rival team. They are Jason Fricking Sudeikis. Whatever. I get it. It may not be right, but I get it.

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I. Get. It.

But hating on their work is different than hating on them as a person. Unless it's Jason Sudeikis, there's no reason to attack a person's humanity just because you think their movies suck or their music is derivative or because they play for the Yankees and you like the Red Sox.

And there's definitely no reason to hate on somebody for getting free nuggets. His good luck doesn’t take nuggets out of your mouth. Are people hating simply because he got a lot of retweets and he now has some vague semblance of "fame"? It's such a simple, random thing that anyone COULD have done, so to some people it doesn't seem fair that he gets such a great reward...maybe people are mad because they didn’t think of it first? Maybe they feel that if they can't have free nuggets, nobody should? That’s a 5 year old’s mentality, and its scary how many people possess that mentality.

Even Chrissy Teigen, a model/actress/wife to John Legend/celebrity I generally like, said on Twitter that she blocks anyone who retweets the "Wendy's kid." She has a somewhat irreverent sense of humor, and it was part of a conversation with another funny Twitter celebrity so it's not that serious, but it struck me as a bit off-putting. This is a person who gained a massive internet following because of the silly things she does on Twitter and Instagram. She's hating on someone else doing something silly on Twitter? Not to mention, this is a very financially secure woman. Wendy's boy is just a regular kid. Why is a rich celebrity denigrating a random young kid trying to get free nuggets? How is that funny? That's some "let them eat cake" levels of being out of touch with the proletariat. 

Again, it's Twitter. It's jokes. Har har. But why are so many of our jokes based on wishing for the downfall of others? What does that say about us as a species?

I'm not entirely sure. But I could go for some nuggets. Did you know their 4 piece nuggets is now 99 cents and their 6 piece is $1.29? For decades it cost 99 cents for 5 nuggets. What the hell Wendy's?

You know what? Fuck that kid and his free nuggets.

I Love You All (Even you, Wendy's Boy. But not you, Jason Sudeikis)...Class Dismissed. 

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