No matter where you go, you will hear people say, “That’s retarded” or “ That guy is a retard”. This fact is the exact reason Spread the Word to End the Word campaign was launched. The R-word is hurtful and dehumanizing to people with special needs. Spread the Word to End the Word (STWTETW) is an ongoing effort by Special Olympics and Best Buddies. Both campaigns support to stop the use of the R-word and to enlighten society on its effects. The founders of the organization were 2 college kids, Soeren Palumbo and Tim Shriver. They founded the organization in 2009 and Special Olympics athletes now run it along with Best Buddies leaders. The first Wednesday in March marks Spread the Word to End the Words global day of awareness. On this day, rallies and assemblies are held nationwide to show, especially the youth, the damage this word can cause and to try and get them to see people with disabilities as just another average human being.
Since 1960, the word retard was used in the medical community to describe someone who was slow or mentally delayed. Until very recently that term has been changed over to intellectual disability. There has been a new wave, in the handicapped community, of person first naming. Instead of saying “down syndrome person” you would say “the person with down syndrome”. The idea is to put the disability after the identification so that it’s less labeling. This movement had increased the awareness of the R-word and helped its demise.
When you walk through the halls of a high school or through the quad of a university, you can hear the word retarded used at an alarming rate. Most of the time, it is used to describe a person who is being dumb or acting foolish. What kids don’t realize is the stigma that comes along with using this word. Calling people this word implies you think people with disabilities are slow and dumb. You wouldn’t say the N-word to an African American person. This is the way we have to think about it. The word is used so loosely these days and it’s so widespread that its going to take a huge effort by everyone to decrease its use, and that’s exactly what STWTETW is aiming to do.
Spread the Word to End the Word is fighting a battle that needs to be fought and won. They do this in many ways. First is there website, r-word.org. On there you can read about efforts people have made to combat the use of the r-word, research the organization, and pledge to stop using the r-word. They also have a Twitter account and Facebook page dedicated to the cause. With both of these social medias they are able to reach out to a lot of people and rapidly spread their message. We personally have taken the pledge and it’s been very rewarding to know that we can make a difference in people’s lives just by spreading awareness. We hope one day, we as a society can come together and end R-word for good.
What we are here to discuss is the best form of social media to promote awareness about this cause. Facebook and Twitter are the most used sites on the Internet. They both provide great tools for spreading the word, but is there one site that prevails over the others effectiveness?
Spread The Word To End The Word campaign has been gaining recognition on the Internet at a fast and steady pace. It is easy to spread recognition about something due to the multiple sources of social media available to the public. The R-Word organization, which created the STWTETW campaign, has taken to many social media sites to gain recognition and encourage people to pledge to end the use of the R-word. Vessels like Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, and especially Twitter have been utilized by this organization.
Twitter is easily one of the most popular forms of social media we have today. Millions worldwide take to this site to tweet their every thought, feeling, action, etc. It is easy to follow celebrities, companies, organizations, and friends on this site as well. R-Word.org has taken advantage of Twitter by allowing users to spread awareness a few different ways. On R-Word.org, one can visit the site and take a pledge to stop using the word. After signing up to take this pledge, the organization gives you the option to share a message on your Twitter account. The automated message, “I pledge #Respect thru my words & actions. Will you? Pledge now to create communities of inclusion for people with IDhttp://r-word.org“, is sent from your Twitter account and appears on the timelines of everyone who follows you.
A neat feature Twitter has is the ability to “retweet” or “favorite” something, which basically means a user’s followers can share his or her tweet with their followers, spreading the message to a whole new crop of people. This is an incredible feature, because the viewership of his or her message can be doubled in size if someone retweets it. Twitter is easily the best way to spread a message because of the easy ability to share a message with a mass of people that has the ability to reach more and more people with the click of a button. Celebrities and popular organizations are the best marketing the R-Word organization can ask for. There have been many celebrities that have taken the pledge and shared their pledge with all of their followers. Because of their status, their message reaches thousands, even millions, of followers, who then can retweet and spread the message to their own set of followers as well.
The most popular aspect of the STWTETW campaign has been the Twitter hashtag created, #spreadthewordtoendtheword. By using this hashtag frequently, Twitter users can get the hashtag to “trend”, or basically appear on Twitter’s main page and show every Twitter user what is popular on the website at that time. One can also search Twitter or the Internet using this hashtag and retrieve all the tweets that contain this specific hashtag. This makes it easy for people to search and see the many tweets that promote the campaign.
This is more beneficial and effective than Facebook for many reasons. To begin, celebrities and companies have far more followers on Twitter than they do on Facebook. This means more people are seeing their posts. Also, it is easier to search for hashtags and keywords on Twitter, therefore making it easier to find tweets that contain the #spreadthewordtoendtheword hashtag. Also, the ability to retweet something someone has posted is a better way to raise awareness to more people. More importantly, with the declining usage of Facebook and the increasing popularity of Twitter, this creates a more concentrated spotlight on a certain form of social media and provides more of a one-stop place for people to check to get all the information they want about this movement. Twitter allows for stronger activism, which is what has been described above as the spreading of awareness about an issue that needs to be righted or justified. Social media allows for this activism to take place, and Twitter provides a greater opportunity for this campaign to spread.
While Twitter provides great opportunities for spreading this campaign, there are many beneficial aspects of Facebook that contribute to the same effect. The Spread the Word to End the Word page on Facebook has over 223k “likes” and numerous photos, which keep their followers and the public aware of their current status. Facebook is more effective because the “Like” button is one of the easiest things to do on this website because it shows your support with a simple click of a mouse. One is also able to comment and share the links, but this is definitely not as popular as the “Like”. People of all ages such as young kids, teenagers, adults, the elderly and even pets, have Facebook accounts. The Spread the Word to End the Word campaign displays photos of groups involved in the programs, specific events they have planned, and the overall results of those events. The page is updated with recent posts and pictures every few days or often as necessary. The campaign was founded February 9th, 2009 and the Facebook page was created March 13th, 2009. It only took a little over a month to reach the social media relum. Social media is used so often in society, sometimes the only way to “spread the word” is through the Internet.
Activism is promoting or directing social, political, economic or environmental change or status. This particular situation would be seen as a media activism, which utilizes media for political movements. Putting specific information on the web allows people who follow the campaign, to maintain easy access. Spread the Word to End the Word shares other posts that other organizations may post. This is one way for the word to get around faster. First, ads and flyers display the name, website, and motto of the campaign so followers can glare at the ad quickly and know what is being advertised. The big font and bold lettering help catch the eyes of the people browsing. T-shirts and tank tops are an easy way to advertise as well simply because the message is being displayed in other places and not just the web. Secondly, videos are a way for people to physically view what this campaign does and how it inspires others to get involved. Volunteers have posted videos and slideshows of either a relative or friend who is autistic, has downs syndrome, or is physically/mentally handicap. They then go into detail about their individual stories and how this campaign has affected them and inspired them to be better. For example, a boy named Jimmy was the first person with downs-syndrome to finish the NYC Marathon. This particular accomplishment received close to 3,000 “Like”s, 51 comments and 383 shares. Thirdly, papers and letters are linked to the page. A girl named Laura wrote an essay about her brother David. This essay received close to 30,000 “Like”s on facebook, over 3,000 comments and over 19,000 shares. The picture of Laura and her brother is larger than the normal format of a post. If there is an important message or accomplishment that deserves credit, the creators make an extra effort to advertise that specific story. Fourth, when athletes like Adrian Peterson and Christian Ponder from the Minnesota Vikings are showing their support along with the cast of Parenthood, their activity is posted on Facebook for advertisement. Peterson and Ponder have close to 4,000 “Like”s on Facebook and Parenthood received a little over 3,000. When famous athletes/casts are shown supporting a specific movement this enhances the public’s involvement and make them want to help that cause even more. Big name stars are role models to the younger generations and when they see their favorite athlete or someone they see on television supporting a charity or campaign that makes them want to make a difference too. Colleges, athletes, television casts and reality stars all make a huge difference when they are recognized for this type of work.
Based on the amount of “Like”s, comments and sharing on certain posts, the Facebook page is very effective in getting their message across to the public. With over 223k “Like”s on the page alone, within the past 5 years, Spread the Word to End the Word is doing their job one day at a time. The pictures, videos and ads get thousands to look at what this campaign is doing to spread awareness for their message to “Pledge to end the use of the R-word.” The Internet and social media is a quick and effective way to “Spread the Word.” The numbers that this page displays is astonishing and helps this great cause reach their overall goals.
This has been a campaign that has been facilitated mostly through social media rather than some more traditional methods. This direction comes at a price though. The main problem founded within the campaign is the use of slacktivism. Slacktivism is “actions performed via the Internet in support of a political or social cause but regarded as requiring little time or involvement.” So it makes one look like they are doing something when in reality not a lot is being accomplished. Slacktivism is what runs this campaign, especially on sites like Facebook and Twitter. While this is great to get the word out, it actually achieves not as much as they think it does. It is great that it has half a million pledges and 223k Facebook page likes with also 19.5k Twitter followers. But these numbers are not really that much in the grand scheme of things. The most liked pages on Facebook have millions and millions of likes. Exactly how many are slacktivist and how many are not, we will not know. It is very easy, to pledge, but does it really do anything? Teenagers and even adults throw this word around like it is no big deal and do not realize how many lives that one word effects. This campaign has been criticized. A few include a restriction of free speech and political correction, among others. This campaign is not an attack on free speech, it is an attack on hateful and hurtful speech. It is a crusade to get rid of one of the most vile words in the English dictionary. This is something that will not change overnight and after five years has made some substantial improvement.
This campaign has not failed and there has been plenty of progress this specific campaign has accomplished. This campaign alone is a great way to get the word out, especially for such a great cause. While some may view it as slacktivism, there are others that will take it further. One person who stops using the R-word completely, is a small step forward to the overall goal. The main issue is people do not think of it as hurtful and harmful word. Raising awareness on social media can help display this message. An effective way it has tried to help the cause was to get some famous actors and athletes to help. This makes the PSAs or ads have a role model that kids will listen to. Facebook is a great place to share ideas, pictures, and videos. It lets people comment on others which is more important than just likes. The more people who tell their stories give others the courage to share theirs. It is a very positive and productive place to spread the word. Twitter is another place where people gather for conversation on this. While it might not have the numbers that Facebook has, it still is very important for the spread of the message. With celebrity Twitters is seen by many of their followers sometimes more than it would on Facebook. This also occurs if it a good tweet as well. This is how videos and pictures go viral for the campaign.
This is a campaign that transcends race. This word hurts people black or white, male or female. This affects every race the same, there is no discrimination. This campaign is not about race and is important for everyone. This movement is supported by other minorities group. Whether there is a clear winner, we do not know. Both forms of social media provide adequate coverage and promotion of this campaign. Perhaps the real winner is the audience that makes the effort to use their social media pages for causes such as this.