Monday, 8 October 2012

Charity Depression - When Social Media Goes Wrong

Oh dear, it's kicking off on Twitter again. The pitchforks are out and people are spoiling for a fight. This time, though, it's not between reality TV celebs or even involves Tom Daley style trolls. It's between The Sunday Times journalist India Knight and the charity Mind, the UK's 'leading mental health charity.'

Over the weekend, she wrote an article about the sudden increase in celebrity literature that discusses their struggle with depression. The article begins 'Are there people left standing who still believe that depression is “taboo”, and that by speaking about their own they are bravely shining a light — “just a little beam, but I do what I can” — into the darkness?' Surely you can see her point? Coinciding nicely with Christmas present buying, to have a whole bunch of celebs, some more credible than others, chucking out their 'woe me' stories does make me feel that underneath whatever mental anguish they've experienced, they are only doing it to line their pockets. It wasn't a comment about depression, it was a comment about celebrity. It's a bit boring but I suppose seeing as they aren't missing limbs or suffering from some visible ailment, they've got to have something that makes life seem just a little bit less amazing and something that we can relate to. 'Don't worry non-celebrity person, I too have had my crosses to bear.'

Statistics alone, though, show that depression isn't relegated to the celebrity sphere. It is something we can all relate to because 1 in 4 people will suffer depression and anxiety in one year. Perhaps they (the celebs) feel that by talking about it, it might help more people, that's certainly not a bad thing but to truss it up and package it under the celebrity banner makes me cringe. To be honest, I feel it's wrong. I believe I can say this because I have suffered from depression since I was 16 and 2 members of my immediate family also suffer from it. Yeah it's shit and some times are harder than others. It is most definitely hard to understand if you've not experience it but there you go.

What I think is even worse than celebrity depression stories though, is the way that Mind Charity have reacted over social media towards the article. I also believe I'm in a position to discuss this because I've set up and run charity social media pages for the past 3 years and blimey have they got this wrong. They tweeted this morning 'Today we ask  in response to  and her distasteful article on depression being money spinning 'misery lit' Join us!' Yes, charities definitely have a duty to bring discussions to the fore and prompt conversations with people about a whole variety of issues but anyone running an organisations' social media - especially for such a large and well respected charity (possibly not now) - will know the basic 'think before you tweet' rule. What's sad is that it has not had the desired reaction at all and people have told them so. Social media back firing for anyone is bad but for a charity it's truly awful, especially in the current economic climate. Was anyone in a position of seniority aware this was going to happen? I can't believe it would have been allowed if it had been run passed them. 

For those who are not au fait with twitter, here's what's wrong with this tweet:

  •  India has over 75,000 followers and Mind less than double that at 32,000. She's a respected, articulate journalist - did they really think she would take it lying down? 
  • In amongst the back peddling they are now doing desperately, they tweeted in response to someone, 'you're right, it went somewhere we didn't expect.' Er, are you kidding me?! They tagged her in the tweet meaning it will go straight to her. She retweeted it to her followers, who leapt to her defence. 
  • The tone. They might have felt her article was distasteful but so is this tweet. It's bitter and vitriolic. With only 140 letters, you have to be careful because the tone can go wrong so quickly.
  • There's no link to the article. So suddenly, Mind followers will see this, get on their high horses with no idea what it's actually about. Further to that, the Sunday Times has a paywall so for the more rational social media users who want to get both sides, if they aren't subscribed then they are left even more confused.
  • They misquoted her article in tweets. Unprofessional. If you're going to argue against something, at least get it right and understand what they are saying. Did they even read the article?!
  • They have now deleted the tweet. Another rule - If you mess up a tweet, don't delete. Their twitter now just looks really confused and they seem even more unprofessional than before. 
What they should have done:
  • Write a response and posted it on their website with a full explanation of what India was saying in her article 
  • Then put it on social media and feel free to tag her twitter account with a friendly but firm 'we would like to suggest otherwise...' style tweet
  • Put some thought into the 'campaign' don't go all guns blazing. What did they actually want to achieve from it?
  • Make sure you understand what was being said in the first place 
What they should do now:

  • Send their digital team on some training days. 

I very much hope that this episode won't have a lasting negative effect on Mind. I suspect that, like everything in the fast moving world of Twitter, it will be forgotten by the time offices are closed tonight but I do hope they - and other charities - will learn a lot from this. Like celebrities, charities aren't untouchable when it comes to criticism in this online world we live in.

1 comment:

  1. I'm always in two minds when it comes to things like this. In comparison I always thought Jade Goody was a gobby, rude and racist woman. However she died because of a health problem that many many people (including non celebs) face. Her raising of awareness of it, regardless of the fact that she was a celeb undoubtedly saved lives. It was the very fact that she was well known, as to how far her message could do.

    I think the point of thinking before you tweet certainly applies no matter who you are, be it charity of private citizen. However, as wrong or as right as someones view point may be, when the story becomes about arguments and "he said, she said" then the whole point of awareness of mental issues gets lost in the post.

    Here is a potentially taboo concept, whilst celebs might be selling their stories to make money off the back of mental health issues. What about the person who isn't famous, is sat on their own in the dark, and sees that even these so called famous people can have mental issues. Perhaps they may think that if someone famous and previously thought to be infallable can have a mental health issue, then perhaps they are not on their own?