I am the Swine Flu: A Social Media Masterclass
Baratunde Thurston's “swine flu experiment” was a brilliant, well-timed satire on media frenzy, but it’s also a masterclass in the creative use of social media.
Jason Gots is a New York-based writer, editor, and podcast producer. For Big Think, he writes (and sometimes illustrates) the blog "Overthinking Everything with Jason Gots" and is the creator and host of the "Think Again" podcast. In previous lives, Jason worked at Random House Children's Books, taught reading and writing to middle schoolers and community college students, co-founded a theatre company (Rorschach, in Washington, D.C.), and wrote roughly two dozen picture books for kids learning English in Seoul, South Korea. He is also the proud father of an incredibly talkative and crafty little kid.
Among other things, Baratunde Thurston is a social and political satirist. So in 2009, when paranoid fervor about the disease formerly known as the Swine Flu was at its height, he masqueraded as the Swine Flu on Twitter and Facebook.
With their angry pig icon and badass attitude, Baratunde's swine flu accounts quickly (yes, I said it) went viral, getting write-ups in major media outlets like The Huffington Post and prominent followers like (someone explain this please) Mitt Romney. Much of the experiment's success was the result of Baratunde's energy and inventiveness in enacting the disease across various platforms.
The “swine flu experiment” was a brilliant, well-timed satire on media frenzy, but it’s also a masterclass in the creative use of social media.
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