Commentary

C'mon People, Is #f*ckyouwashington The Best We Can Do?

With due apologies to the guy -- @jeffjarvis -- who had the good sense (but the bad timing) to start up the #fuckyouwashington hashtag last Saturday night, I'm disappointed in social media right now. As this column is the best platform I have on which to rant, here I go.  

 

At a time like this, when the country is on the brink of a first-ever default, social media -- and that means all of you! -- doesn't appear to be doing all that it could. That is, if you believe - no matter which side of the political fence you sit on -- that watching your elected officials act like preschoolers in a time of financial crisis is just a tad disheartening.  

If you've read the headlines about what social media has done -- and can do -- in other instances, you'd expect some, or all, of the following to be going on right now. Wouldn't you?

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1.     A meet-up or two scheduled for the Mall this weekend in Washington.

2.     A few more angry hashtags.

3.     Mass tweets aimed specifically at the elected officials who are involved in this whole mess, publicly shaming them into action.

4.     A planned resistance effort to things like paying taxes. 

Instead, what do we have so far? Beyond Jarvis' hashtag, which, as of this morning, has slowed down to a trickle of retweets, not much in terms of using social media to organize what appears to be mass public outrage. Instead, my tweet stream runs on about the same as ever. A quick look right now shows we are still much more interested in the Dunkin' Donuts IPO and Google+ than we are in our country's credit rating. Doughnuts are tasty, but ... really?

 

Indeed, some news reports about citizen outrage read like we're stuck in a time warp where the collective voice - rather than something that can be summoned rapidly, efficiently, and with immense scale - is party-lining like it's 1959. Here's what I mean: after President Obama urged us, in a primetime speech on good ol' broadcast TV, to call our Congressman, the phones at the Capitol rang "off the hook."

Well, good, I guess. But where's the collectivism in that? It's one thing to call your Congressman; but it's far more powerful to organize the people trying to call in all around you. I shouldn't have to remind anyone reading this column about what social media did for the uprising in Egypt. 

Of course, the Congressional Web site was jammed too -- and while I'd love to see a report about how much traffic surged to house.gov yesterday, when I finally got through and was able to write to my Congresswoman, the whole exercise felt pretty pathetic. There I was, a solitary person sitting at her keyboard, writing an email that would probably never be read. Surely, in this day and age, I could do something more powerful than that. We all could. 

I'm scratching my head about where this inertia comes from. Debt ceiling fatigue? Despair? Denial? Or maybe, like me, you're just trying to focus on the things you can control, like how well you do your job, or overseeing your kids' morning application of sunscreen. Still, I'm disappointed. And you should be, too. 

#dosomethingdc! 

11 comments about "C'mon People, Is #f*ckyouwashington The Best We Can Do?".
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  1. Khalid Low from Gotham Direct, Inc, July 27, 2011 at 3:18 p.m.

    Let me start by stating that I am with you 100% and probably a majority of those that will read this article. However, let me remind you that this is America (a Western country) not Egypt or Tunisia or Libya or Syria which means we have what our comrades in Egypt et al do NOT have.
    And that is the basic needs (electricity, security, clean water et al). This means we are NEVER going to stand up and protest/demonstrate against our leaders.
    We have been given enough entertainment to keep us (especially our youth) busy - movies, TV, games, Malls et al.

    Most of us do NOT even know who our congress representatives are and even worse many of us don't even know that there is a crisis looming because we are busy doing what we do.

    Having said that, NOTHING will EVER change here, not NOW, not EVER unless something tragic happens. We will elect the same idiots and we will not pay attention to what's happening with our politicians and life will go on. It is sad to say that but it is reality.

    The last time we had a revolution was during the Vietnam war and after that there was the Rodney King incident (regardless of what you think of it, the riots did lead to the re-trial and conviction of those very officers who were initially found innocent).

    In the mean time, I am scratching my head and disappointed just like you and countless others.

  2. Jay Davis from --------, July 27, 2011 at 3:23 p.m.

    Or maybe social media isn't the collective change-the-world platform you seem to think it is. It is only as powerful or noble as those using it. That is to say that in this instance, the American public, in my opinion, is pretty unfocused when it comes to this, or many other, complex political stalemates. There's a debt ceiling? What? We've always been in debt so how is this worse? Not sure what's really wrong about taxing the rich? What are they even fighting about here? Is this the tea party? They're still around? Where are my pants?

    And I think it's funny that you're so disappointed that TV scooped SM and got the country to get off its ass a little bit. Don't forget, it's still the most powerful medium in the world.

    Social media doesn't power or generate collectivism, collectivism uses social media.

  3. Mark Mclaughlin from McLaughlin Strategy, July 27, 2011 at 3:27 p.m.

    Catherine, I love this column. I agree with everything you wrote but I'm afraid that we've reached the point where our Federal level government is now just a silly and embarrassing side show that most of us Americans who are just trying to get by can't be bothered with. The idea that 16 Congressman are going to be able to send the country into default seems so far-fetched, and the hyperbole from inside the beltway has just grown so tiresome and ridiculous over the years, that we can't find it in ourselves to get worked up over this. Only the fanatics care, the rest of us are just crossing our fingers and hoping that even our government can find a way not to be totally stupid and self-destructive.

  4. Jill Kennedy from Manka Bros., July 27, 2011 at 3:49 p.m.

    Agreed. Social media has had zero effect on the debt ceiling impasse and debate in Washington. No matter how many people ask you to retweet your rage at congress and update your Facebook status with angry sentences and phrases, no one in congress appears to be paying attention or really caring. Social media and its ineffectiveness is another real loser in this issue.

    http://mankabros.com/blogs/onmedea/2011/07/26/debt-ceiling-impasse-1-social-media-0/

  5. Stephen Rowe, July 27, 2011 at 4:25 p.m.

    Catherine,
    There are a couple of things about your article today. First is, this actually is not the first time that our federal government has been this close to default. In fact it has defaulted before. It was only by a couple of days, but it did default. Second, I believe that in these difficult economic times people are just trying to get by. This coupled with the fact that everything in Washington for the past several years has been labeled a crisis and I am not a bit surprised the American people are showing the level of apathy that they are presently. Lastly, I have talked to a fair number of people concerning this topic and I am amazed at the lack of knowledge that I encounter concerning the consequences, how our government is supposed to work and even what kind of government is called for in our constitution.

  6. Patricia Neuray from Business.com, July 27, 2011 at 4:46 p.m.

    The saddest part of all of this is that most Americans could tell you who won American Idol last year or the latest antic of Snookie a lot faster than they could explain what Washington is arguing about or what is at stake for our economy. The media doesn't help considering venues like Fox News only exist to increase the divide and inflame their base rather than educating through objective media coverage. For all those Americans that don't speak up, what would you do if that privelege was taken away completely? I bet you would see a lot of social action then!

  7. David Kraljic, July 27, 2011 at 4:50 p.m.

    This is EXACTLY why we created Votetocracy.

    A site where Americans can vote on bills and take MEASURABLE action on any bill in Congress.

    Let's stop the talk and do something about the issues that effect all of us.

    please check out www.votetocracy.com

  8. Pat Lewis from Social Media Concepts NY, July 27, 2011 at 4:57 p.m.

    I'm doing something about the horrific situation in Washington. I've started a petition to make changes in Congress. Please participate by signing on today -- http://www.change.org/petitions/all-taxpayers-in-the-united-states-fire-members-of-congress.

    Thanks.

  9. Ira Cohen from IC DIRECT Multichannel Marketing Services, July 28, 2011 at 1:47 p.m.

    I couldn't agree more Catharine, & shared your post amongst my networks today. I actually posted a tweet with similar sentiment yesterday to my networks, asking for RTs, but as far as I've seen only 1 follower took me up on my plea...

    Here in California it seems like we go through a similar exercise yearly... an almost laughable inability to agree upon and pass a state budget in a timely manner.

    Have we reached a point of total public apathy regarding the inability of law makers to reach bipartisan consensus on anything, let alone preventing the country from achieving further financial ruin? Have we decided that is this just the inevitable realized, so why care? To some extent I would agree regarding the inevitability, but for the social media user community at large to disregard it completely is very disappointing to me too.

    I checked the trending topics on Twitter yesterday & there wasn't anything related to this situation. I just checked again, & these are the current Twitter trending topics for San Francisco:

    #thingswelearnedontwitter
    #rappernames
    Alex Trebek
    #beltran
    Battleship
    Jason Aldean
    Greatest Harry Potter Moments
    Frank Gore
    Nnamdi Asomugha

    Lot's of folks interested in sports and entertainment issues (there's nothing necessarily wrong with that), and not anything at the top of the topic list regarding the budget crisis.

    Hoping your post makes a bigger impact than mine did yesterday (it won't take much)...

  10. Angelique Creatively from AFMarCom, July 28, 2011 at 2:37 p.m.

    You ask why were not seeing "mass tweets aimed specifically at the elected officials who are involved in this whole mess, publicly shaming them into action."

    Very few politicians use Twitter. Sure, many of them are associated with a Twitter account in their names, but if these accounts are used at all, it's largely by staffers who don't actually respond to the public.

    Also, when people are serious about inspiring their friends and neighbors to action, they GO WHERE THE FRIENDS ARE. Think about the ages of the people whom surveys tell us actually vote. Between the activists who don't use Twitter and the friends who don't use Twitter, the number of politically active people who are inclined to spend their energy there is much less than those who will use email and the phone. They're sure they'll reach people in those ways. I've certainly been on the receiving end of email and phone messages lately.

  11. Radiah Givens from Freelance-Social Media Consultant, August 24, 2011 at 5:07 p.m.

    Your kidding right? I don't understand why your so perplexed when we live in a society where people don't even want to talk to other people, and want to "text" you instead..... In order for the Zombies to act I'm sorry to have to break the news to you, but tragedy is the only way people will come together in this country..... Sad to say we have more people who can remember who won "Dancing With The Stars" then about real life issues......:>(

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