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Steve Martin & Internet Bullies

Steve Martin, comedian, art collector, and novelist, was interviewed at the 92nd Street Y the other week. The onstage conversation was interrupted when Martin’s interviewer was handed a note.

It read: “Discuss Steve’s career.”

The message was delivered by Y staff members who were trying to breath life into Mr. Martin’s musings that were focused squarely on his new book and the modern art world.

The paying guests got a full refund and Mr. Martin got his feelings hurt. He wrote an Op-Ed in the New York Times lamenting the Y’s actions and the crowd’s impatience.

Here’s where it gets interesting. The Y’s actions were largely inspired by the torrent of angry comments dispensed by people who were watching the show online. As we all know, people will write the first thing that comes into their heads when they click into anonymous comment boxes. They won’t edit themselves and they certainly won’t bother with manners. Apparently, the people at the Y didn’t know this.

Steve expressed his shock succinctly: “What I didn’t expect was that the Y would take the temperature of…e-mailed reactions, and then respond to them by sending a staff member onstage, mid-conversation, with a note.”

Mr. Martin’s windy, yawn-inducing, conversation wasn’t cut short by the audience members–it was cut short by online hecklers who were bored when they didn’t hear a celebrity inspired joke every other minute. Why Y staff members bent to the tyrannical will of an online mob is an another question completely.

Mr. Martin learned that people on the internet are bullies in a very public and very embarrassing way.

Companies and leaders who conduct business online should take note. People on the Internet can be mean and often forget basic manners. Social media isn’t always a fun and entertaining way to generate consumer interest. Sometimes it’s just a sounding board for loud-mouths who are simply seeking entertainment.

Similarly, companies conducting online events should ensure they aren’t easily swayed by the bored, fast-typing, masses.

Picture Credit: djwudi



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