Joke’s On Them: Shutdown Causes Social Media StirOctober 02, 2013
Across the nation, the recent government shutdown has captured everyone’s attention. That goes double here in Washington D.C., where residents breathlessly await every new piece of news. And as the first official shutdown to take place during the social media era, this stoppage has become a fascinating source of sociological analysis.
Naturally, topics such as #Shutdown, or other variations thereof, have been trending on Twitter since Monday. Zoomph has been monitoring social media activity on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to isolate the most influential content, and the results have been telling.
Surprisingly, the content receiving the most engagement and interaction has actually side-stepped traditional news and information sharing. Instead, social media users are more frequently segueing the government shutdown topic into memes, jokes, and other sorts of irreverent posts. It isn’t until one scrolls much lower on the list of top influencers that news sources with more serious articles appear. So what does this mean? Is the government shutdown really not as serious as we thought?
The answer to that question is ‘no’, and it relates to context. Clearly, the shutdown has had a vast and negative impact across the country, causing individuals to let off some steam with levity. Nothing underscores that fact more than Monday’s trending Twitter topic of #ShutdownPickUpLines:
#ShutdownPickupLines You must be furloughed from the Center for Disease Control, because your smile is infectious.
— LibrarianShipwreck (@libshipwreck) October 2, 2013
Even individuals directly impacted by the shutdown are getting in on the social media spree. Rather than showing off food creations or pets, many Instagram photos now display the furlough letters ordering their recipients to stay home .
These types of responses are a perfect example of how adversity causes people to seek out the company and connections of others even more than usual. And it’s not lost on us that this phenomenon would have been impossible to measure before the advent of social media. Now, every major national event can—and will be—documented online, for better and for worse. What we do with that information is up to us.