Commentary

Mobile Gives Mean Girls Wings

By most measures, female-focused negativity (or cattiness, or whatever you want to call it), reigned supreme at MTV’s Video Music Awards last night.

Yep, in case you missed it, Nicki Minaj calling out Miley Cyrus as a back-stabbing “bitch” easily overshadowed every display of love, support, and admiration during a night that was supposed to celebrate creative genius and achievement.

Was it a choreographed stunt by some brilliant businesswomen who know how to play the media and their fans like a fiddle? Maybe -- but that doesn’t change the fact that it resonated so well with audiences across various mobile and social media channels.

A single sanitized Vine featuring Minaj’s challenge to Miley, for instance, has already been “liked” more than 18,500 times, and looped more than 1.5 million times.  

Does that make social and mobile media responsible for the nastiness? That may be a stretch -- particularly because the affront was issued on live TV. Yet they certainly fuel the fire, and give viewers -- many of whom are young, highly impressionable girls -- easy access to the drama.

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These channels also allow -- even encourage, we would argue -- young people to participate in the war of words, and practice their own call-outs, name-calling, and all manner of meanness.   

Of course, top platforms like Twitter and Facebook have taken measures to reduce hateful content, and curb trolls.

But what about brands? Some, we’re happy to report, have gone out of their way to encourage a more positive discussion on the topics of beauty and womanhood.

First launched during the Oscars, Dove continued its pushback against the standard onslaught of superficial -- and mostly female-focused -- scrutiny, on Sunday.

Encouraging Twitter users to go easy on the artists, the Unilever brand’s #SpeakBeautiful effort was built on the shoulders of its Campaign for Real Beauty. Based on keywords and other tracking analysis, Twitter works with Dove to identify negative tweets before and during the awards show.

Not long after nasty tweets were posted, Dove tweeted non-automated responses, including “constructive and accessible advice” to encourage more positive online language and habits. Dove’s response team included “social media and self-esteem experts” who were ready to fight the good fight in real-time.

Perceived physical flaws are a favorite topic among social media users. By Dove’s count, over 5 million “negative body image” tweets were posted last year.

Even more troubling, four out of every five negative tweets about beauty and body image are from women talking about themselves, according to research commissioned by Dove, and conducted by Danah Boyd, the social media guru and Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research.

As Jennifer Bremner, director of marketing at Dove, recently told us: “Women today are 50% more likely to say something negative about themselves, than positive, on social media.”

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