What’s Vexing About What’s Viral: the no-show Birthday Party

Did you hear the story about a little boy named Teddy who threw a pizza party for over two dozen of his closest friends…and no one showed up? Of course you heard about it, it went viral a few weeks back.

There have been a few stories in the past couple of years of planned celebrations going bust, with few or no attendees save for parents and family members. We’d eventually hear about it because an angry tweet spread like wildfire or a heartbreaking blog post got shared ten of thousands of times, but what’s vexing about Teddy’s situation is that it didn’t reach the masses because of personal storytelling, but because his mother, sent a picture of her son sitting alone at table, to a local reporter.

The reporter was professional enough to blur out the child’s face, many other news outlets did not do the same (I presume with parental permission), so when I originally saw the picture, the kid’s face was in full view and I was stunned that his parents would put him on display like that. Why would anyone share such a deflating moment in such a public way? And then I read about the free tickets to sporting events and gifts being offered and well-wishes coming in from people worldwide and I thought…I got my answer.

The other stories of children snubbed on their special days was revealed through personal retellings and magnified in a very organic way; the stories, for whatever reason, touched people and caught on. This story, by virtue of it being shared with a member of the media, reeks of opportunism. And as you can see from the images of the posts above, the truthfulness of the situation was questioned enough that the reporter who originally posted the image had to comment on it, confirming that the family was indeed there, (which is a sleight of hand answer since the picture proves that) but not whether or not there was a party.

The rise in stories about no-show birthday parties also had me wondering, why? Turns out it this might be the effect of ‘all or nothing’ birthday party policies instituted at schools to prevent hurt feelings among young students, but rather than easing exclusionary behavior, the policy proved that hurt feelings are something you simply can’t avoid.

What ‘The Dress’ Taught Me About Racism

As I look back on 2015, I was thinking of one of my favorite subjects: The Dress. Which team were you? I was white and gold and I remember the one day that I magically able to see black and blue. It only happened once, but it made me realized the importance and the power of perception. Much of what we understand about people is based on our perception which is informed by a variety of things (experience, other’s opinions, genetics, etc). How you saw the dress was strictly based on how your brain processed the light in the picture. Perception is as close to involuntary thinking as someone can get. Why someone thinks something is pretty and another finds it repellent or smells something and thinks it refreshing and another thinks it foul is all more of an internal process than an external one. Our very understanding of the world around us is based on how our neurons click.

I remember how confused I was when people said they saw black and blue or blue and gold. I wondered, are we looking at the same picture? Are they serious? But more than that, I was fascinated. This opened my mind up to how people understand race and public discourse on race. Imagine if you only saw black and blue and people called you ignorant or racist every time you said this. You probably wouldn’t say it much publicly and you might also seek others who see black/blue like you. What if only people who saw white/gold were able to talk about the dress as freely as desired? How much would you really invest in the conversation?

This is simplistic, I know. It also might come across as a defense of racists, but it’s not. This is really an indictment of how we deal with discussions of race. We have to accept that everyone’s perception is very real to them and what they see and feel cannot be ‘logicized’ away; just like we can’t suddenly see white/gold, if all this time we’ve been seeing black /blue.

Everyone’s voice has a place in the conversation. The definition of racism which only allows for white people to be called racist creates an unpleasant dichotomy; same behavior, different treatment because prejudiced just isn’t as serious a condemnation as racist. When people feel like their behavior is held up to greater scrutiny than others, they disconnect and you can’t expect them to participate in productive dialogue.

The goal isn’t to get rid of people’s perceptions or change them, that’s not the world’s responsibility. The objective is to get people to expand their horizons and realize that there’s more to understanding than what we see.


Snowballing: The Vilification of Black Men

Watched a story today on Right This Minute and I was blown away by how quickly a black man can get snowballed by the media and by snowballed I mean how a white person can use their position and/or access to devour the reputation of a person of color who gets in their cross-hairs. The initial story was about a video of a six-year old named Grant. The video was posted back in November on his mother, Amy Stone’s Youtube account. The video, however, didn’t start to go viral until being posted on the Facebook page of another person (DeLorean) where, according to Stone, the video racked up five million views. Amy (along with husband, Nate) believes DeLorean to be a scammer who was exploiting their son for personal gain pointing to the fact that his site talks about making money online. She also claims that despite their requests DeLorean refused to take the video down and ultimately Facebook removed the video. So, what’s the problem? It’s not completely true. I found the story quite odd because part of what people do on Facebook is share videos. So what made this guy any different? He didn’t link the video to the original source, which means he diverted attention (read income) from her original Youtube video. Ok, that sucks, but there’s more.

I searched for it and found a cached result (see below) which means at some point he added her info to the post. And then I kept digging. On his page, via video post, he talks about (and shows) a message exchange between him and Mrs. Stone where he asks her if she wants the video down, she doesn’t say no, but instead asks that he change the description and post a direct link to her Youtube video. So not only did she lie about communication with him, but she also expected him to use his Facebook page to drive users to her account, which he is not obligated to do. And when he didn’t act according to her wishes, she got lawyer-ed up (very apparent from her final response to him) and threatened to continue to involve the press (which she had already done). The story was reported on a local TV station (KUTV) without ANY efforts to reach out to DeLorean and hear his side of the story which wouldn’t have been difficult since his page is public and I was able to get all this info within an hour.

Now, I get that he posted copyrighted material to his page without crediting the owner, but he didn’t make money off of it and based on his direct messages, he was willing to work to appease the family. What doesn’t work is the maligning of his character in such a swift way without investigation. I read on his Facebook page that he has an interview with CNN today and I’m looking forward to hearing his side of the story. Hopefully, others will listen.

Delorean story