If there is something very evident regarding social media is how much power they have given people to spread messages, which may end up having both positive and negative consequences. We are no longer passive members of an audience receiving and processing information. We have the power to create, distribute, and control messages; we have the ability to make our voice so strong that in a matter of hours, on one side we have one business forced to close and on the other we have a funding campaign to make up for the financial loss, as a result of closing the business. This is the case of Memories Pizza, an Indiana- based restaurant who reportedly was the first to say it would refuse to cater a gay wedding, protected by Indiana’s controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). I live in Puerto Rico and if it weren’t for social media, I would have never learn about the existence of Memories Pizza.
In a matter of minutes, people headed to review websites like Yelp! and social networks like Twitter to express their opinion for and against the restaurant’s position. There are 194 reviews on Yelp! written in two days; there are 1,046 reviews on the “not recommended” section of Yelp!, meaning these ratings were not factored in the overall star rating, based on reliability and quality, among other factors. The content of these comments ranges from supportive messages like “I support Memories Pizza” to others questioning their position and talking about how horrible its pizza is in a effort to undermine its reputation. The results of these comments, and many others on social networks like Twitter, combined with offline threats, forced the owners to close the restaurant. This is how its Yelp! page looks today:
On Twitter,#MemoriesPizza appeared in Twitter’s top ten most popular terms, with tweets both supporting and condemning the business for their public stance.
This is one of the tweets from an assistant softball coach, who was later suspended from her position:
The message constitutes a threat, meaning that there were repercussions and local authorities are investigating this matter. This is another example of how people have a voice on social media, as a result of the limitless space there is and the absence of editing. Each person is on his or her own and may choose to post the content they deem appropriate.
The restaurant’s website was also hacked and someone changed the background of the homepage to rainbow-colored and the message, “call us to cater your gay wedding!” This is more support to the idea of how much control people have on the Internet. This means both control to hack into these websites, as well as control of the message itself.
Yet, not everything is negative for Memories Pizza. On the other side, there’s an army of people who are concerned about the economic implications of having to close the business and are encouraging others to donate money through a crowdfunding platform, GoFundMe. This platform allows people to raise money for events and other causes. As of right now, in just two days, the Support Memories Pizza account has raised $538.599. This is an example of how to use social media to put your cause in front of an audience, expecting people will be moved to take action. Social media have the power to move a lot of people in record time, in this case, 18,333 in two days. While the increasing amount of threats to this family moved them to close the business, this side of of social media must not be forgotten: huge masses of people join together to show support, it doesn’t matter which side you’re in.
While the future of Memories Pizza is uncertain, we must take a look at these reactions as a way to show, not only how fast people can react and create movements on social media, but also how they have brought forward the potential to make a difference. For good or for bad, it seems like these memories created by the thousands of people who had something to say about Memories Pizza, will not be erased. Something happens=people react and, with social media, it’s permanent.