OPINION: Social media giveth and taketh away
Don’t get me wrong, the quokka selfie is a wonderful thing, and it has been incredible to see the reach and power that a single photo can carry. But when we rely on social media to deliver our message we have to take the good with the bad.
Case in point, this week the Margaret River Surf Pro was cancelled on the back of two shark attacks in the region.
Brazilian surfer and former world champion Gabriel Medina took to Instagram and informed his 6 million followers that he didn’t feel comfortable surfing in Margaret river and doesn’t know if he’ll return.
“Two shark attacks in less than 24 hours here in Australia, just a few kilometres from where the event is being held,” he said on Instagram.
“I don’t feel comfortable training and competing in places like this.”
Interesting to see he doesn’t mind surfing at J Bay in South Africa where he himself has been pulled from the water for sharks and colleague Mick Fanning fought off a great white, yet in Margaret River, where he has never placed well, all of a sudden he doesn’t feel safe, but I digress.
People have the right to put whatever they want on their social media but how many times have we discussed the power of celebrity? Will this message reach the masses and impact tourism? WA officials are hoping and praying not.
There is the idea that surfers will surf wherever the surf is and as such we need not fear. But what about the families and those that just want to enjoy a day at the beach? Will they think twice about coming to WA? You can’t help but wonder about the impact.
Social media is a wonderful channel for tourism, and it equalises the playing field – anyone can get involved. But we have to take the good with the bad.
We can be in awe of the attention that Margot Robbie and Roger Federer can bring – still waiting for Chris Hemsworth btw – but we have to be prepared for what negative publicity celebrity might bring… no amount of #quokkaselfies will deter the fear that shark attacks cause.
It should be said that social media is a channel, not a tactic. People use their channels to share their stories, and it’s impossible to think that a brand can control every story that is told. We need a tactic to address the shark problem and then let the channels tell the beautiful story that is Western Australia.
The last thing we want is for shark attacks to become #JustAnotherDayinWA.