Early yesterday, Mashable published a story detailing a dying veteran’s struggle with Spirit Airlines and the resulting public backlash on Facebook. The boycott is in response to Spirit Airlines denying Jerry Meekins, a 76-year-old war veteran, a refund after his doctors told him that he could not travel due to his terminal esophageal cancer. Meekins was hoping to travel from Florida to New Jersey to see his daughter during a surgery.
Once it was revealed that Meekins was refused a refund from Spirit Airlines, the already popular Facebook page boycotting Spirit Airlines erupted. The “Boycott Spirit Airlines” Facebook page currently has close to 22,000 likes and features a post from one angry customer that reads, “Horrible Airline…will never use them and definitely be working on putting them out of business.”
Needless to say, Spirit Airlines is in pretty deep at this point and continue to dig deeper by sticking to their refund policy in the face of this controversy. As the Facebook boycott of Spirit Airlines grows, dissatisfied customers are stepping up to make their voices heard. This event further proves that Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter are becoming the public’s choice to protest a business or event. Now that we have the ability to instantly boycott through social media, should we?
The Case For Facebook Boycott Pages
The general public is always going to find a cause or injustice to put their support behind. Facebook boycott pages give the voiceless a place to make their opinions heard and register their support with a click of a button. Small groups of protesters can now easily focus their efforts in one place and become one cohesive digital movement. When speaking with the Sierra Club, they informed us that much of their online presence was dedicated to letting people know that they are not alone. Boycott pages, in their own way, allow people to not feel helpless when fighting billion dollar conglomerates. In the case of Spirit Airlines, this event has already lost the company thousands of customers.
The Case Against Boycott Pages
The bottom line is that boycott pages on Facebook are vague. These pages are intended to elicit quick reactions and rapid clicks of the “Like” button. This could possibly lead to a person signing up for something that has a catchy title and some clever wordplay without truly knowing what they are digitally supporting. The controversy surrounding Invisible Children during the “Kony 2012” event is evidence enough that we need to know every side of a story before jumping on board. The freedom to create any boycott page also does its part to de-legitimize other meaningful pages. When searching “boycott” on Facebook, I found “Boycott Jersey Shore” only a few spots away from “Boycott BP.” The idea that someone can make a completely ridiculous boycott page negates any credibility that these pages could at some point have had.
Is digital boycotting a legitimate form of protest? Or are they just a way for people to feel good about themselves? Make some noise in the comments below.