Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

People power


Word of mouth has always been a powerful force in society. Along with increasing access to the Internet and the wide variety of social media, people are more connected than ever. The constant Facebook or Twitter updates help keep people in the loop of what’s going on but also gives people a way to respond to events. Even if the Internet seems to be flooded with information, the circulation of the most important topics helps bring attention to specific issues — the Internet has become an extension of the general public. And whenever the public is displeased, the people now have an efficient tool to speak out and get results.

On Sept. 18, Reed Hastings announced that Netflix would be separating its streaming and DVD services between two websites instead of one with “Qwikster” handling the DVD rentals. That same day Twitter blew up with many frustrated and angry customers.

Netflix became a trending topic and everyone seemed to have something to say about Qwikster. Hastings made this announcement on the Netflix blog and in just four weeks has almost 28,000 comments via Facebook. Most of the comments were quite negative and were against the decision of splitting the services between two websites. Many people stated that they would definitely be cancelling their account with Netflix if they hadn’t already.

Netflix must have noted the ire and probably regretted ever announcing a second website because on Oct. 10—just three weeks later—Reed Hastings stated that DVDs will be staying at Netflix. “It is clear that for many of our members two websites would make things more difficult, so we are going to keep Netflix as one place to go for streaming and DVDs,” Reed said in his blog post. The rest of his message makes it clear that the CEO of Netflix understood why so many people were upset about the change.

Back in July, Netflix had announced new price changes that also made people angry. However, Netflix had given customers advance notice and despite protests made the fee increase permanent. In comparison, the backlash against Qwikster was fueled by frustrations from the fee increase and customers bombarded the Netflix blog and Twitter.

Another more amusing incident occurred on Oct. 7.

BBC has a website specifically for children who want to learn different languages—French, Spanish and Mandarin. On the page, there are three children holding up a sign with each language written on it. A girl wearing a beret with some Parisian bread holds up the French sign while a boy wearing a sombrero is used to represent the Spanish language. Finally, the boy with the Chinese Mandarin sign is dressed in a shirt, shorts and sneakers with a bowl of rice with chopsticks… on his head. Fascinasians, a blog on Tumblr, discovered this and started a meme where people would pose with a rice bowl and chopsticks on their heads. Next, a very short video was uploaded from a Youtube channel that has over 40,000 subscribers. Additionally, Fascinasians made a post with screenshots on how to make a complaint on the BBC website. Just a week later, on Oct. 14 the rice bowl was placed in the boy’s hands.

What amazed me about these two events was how quickly the corporate party responded. Netflix was already dealing with some very frustrated customers and decided to give in rather than receive more account cancelations. And, as BBC is publicly funded, there is motivation to change if there are a significant amount of complaints.

These two incidents are among many examples that show how the public can exert influence by being heard as long as one can access the Internet. They also highlight the importance of social media in our lives. Mediums like Facebook and Twitter end up becoming hubs for multiple conversations and the starting point for social action.

Cassie Jeon is a Collegian columnist. She can be reached at [email protected].

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